Neuroscience tackles Champions League travel fatigue for players
LONG BALL GAME
Portugal's Lisbon, to Astana in Kazakhstan, is the longest recorded journey for an official team fixture in European Football history. This has happened twice. Benfica and Astana met in the 2015 Group Stage of the Champions League, followed two years later by their arch-rivals, Sporting. On top of the 6000-kilometre journey, the four-hour time difference would see players fight the challenge of jet lag before they entered the pitch.
There are similar scenarios when World Cups come around. Teams try to negate the travel and time zones by arriving way before the big kick-off. The effects of jet lag can cause fatigue, hindering performance and increasing the chance of injury.
The Premier League and other top divisions in Europe have players from all over the world. International breaks see players travelling globally to wear their country's shirt with pride, trying to secure continental and worldwide success. This can cause significant physical problems for footballers. Imagine this: a player represents their country in, say, South America, then flies back to play a domestic game in the UK before travelling abroad once again to somewhere in Europe to compete in a Champions League tie.
NuCalm CEO -
There are a tremendous amount of challenges for athletes, one thing they bring up is travel
NuCalm CEO - Jim Poole
When you travel by plane and fly faster than the rotation of the earth - particularly flying against the direction of its rotation, your body is forced into a transient state where you experience mental and physical cellular chaos as your body rhythms reluctantly break the old daily patterns and struggle to shift to a new time zone.
This shift causes a major disruption in the synchronization of the time-keepers and body rhythms that keep your heart pumping to one beat while your lungs inhale and exhale to another. The normal signaling that releases enzymes and stomach acids in anticipation of food, put you to sleep at night, wake you in the morning, and control the timing of every function of your body - right down to the cellular level are all affected.
Scientists describe this as “a transient state of dyschronism”. It’s the period of time during which the body re-calibrates its biorhythms in an attempt to adapt to a different time and place.
So, how does this affect a footballer? They can become tired, disorientated, lack focus, and even have digestive issues. Worst still, healing times can increase if a player has an injury.
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Players have spoken out on these issues regarding playing schedules and the near physical impossibility for them to play at their best with the amount of travel and games within short periods of time.
Over a season, a team's performances are scrutinized on their return to the league after away fixtures in Europe. Pundits use phrases as heavy-legged or 'nothing left in the tank'. We are talking about prime athletes here, with the best training methods available. This goes to show that the body can only be pushed to certain limits without the intervention of adequate recovery protocols. This is where neuroscience comes into play.
NuCalm CEO -
The more timezones you travel, the more challenges you have, whether it's digestive, whether it's sleep, whether it's the ability to amplify when you need high energy
NuCalm CEO - Jim Poole
NuCalm has been helping professional airline pilots and the U.S. Airforce pilots effectively manage jet lag for more than a decade. On asking, we given the below personal experience of a 53 year-old professional pilot with 29 years of experience and over 22,000 hours of flight time.
“Jet lag is an occupational hazard and one of the most difficult aspects of being a pilot. We go to work after crossing many time zones tired and fatigued. Our body is operating off of adrenaline during critical phases of flight despite being completely drained and fatigued. It’s dangerous and compromising.
What it comes down to is that with jet lag and fatigue you’re not thinking clear. You’re tired; you’re at the end of a flight doing one of the most critical phases that is a risk to not only your passengers, but also people on the ground. That’s when you need to be at the top of your game and you’re just not.
The first time I tried NuCalm I had just come off a twenty-two hour flight and my mind was racing. I had many things to do and was only in town for two days before I had to fly back to Asia. The doctor who turned me onto NuCalm said, “put this on and relax.” I had no idea what it was, but as I sat there I just felt like a light switch. I was completely calm and at the end of NuCalm I just wanted to chill the rest of the day. I wasn’t stressed, I wasn’t in this mode where, go, go, go, get everything done. My mind was clear.
With NuCalm I’m able to come down to a deep level of relaxation and be stress free.
Before NuCalm, when I would come home it would take me a minimum of three days to recover. I would sleep in the middle of the day, I’d be up in the middle of the night and I would get sick fairly easily. Any kind of sniffle, I knew that my immune system was low and I would instantly be sick. I’ve noticed that in the last three years of using NuCalm I haven’t been sick at all. When I go home from a trip I’m recovered within the day I arrive. Jet lag is completely eliminated for me. I can instantly go right in as a normal person that hasn’t crossed twelve time zones over the last seven days and live a normal life.”
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NuCalm balances the Autonomic Nervous System, which is the stress versus rest response. The 'RESCUE' journey on the NuCalm neuroacoustic mobile app looks to effectively restore you on a cellular level and resets your biorhythms. From their work with professional athletes (including the Golden State Warriors of the NBA), going back to 2011, NuCalm’s ability to down-regulate and up-regulate brain wave function on demand is proving beneficial for expedited recovery without drugs, enabling footballers looking to gain and maintain the performance edge.