Jet Lag and Performance

staz

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The cradle of the game.
AP reports on a study that suggests sending SPs home a day or two before the end of a multi-time zone midwest/west coast road trip might yield benefits. Wonder if this could impact the schedule of planned days off for position players as well.


Caught napping: Baseball hitting, pitching sapped by jet lag
Jan 23, 2017 03:20 PM
By MALCOLM RITTER
AP Science Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - Researchers say they've documented an unseen drag on major league baseball players that can wipe out home field advantage, make pitchers give up more home runs, and take some punch out of a team's bats.

The culprit: jet lag.

Travelers are well aware of the fatigue, poor sleep and other effects that can descend like a fog when their body clocks are out of sync with their surroundings. The new work adds to previous suggestions that professional athletes are no different.

Dr. Ravi Allada of Northwestern University said he and his colleagues wanted to study the effects of body clock disruptions on human performance. So they chose baseball, a game with plenty of performance measures gathered from hundreds of games a year, played by people who get little chance to settle in to new time zones when they travel.

They looked for jet lag's effects by analyzing 20 years' worth of Major League Baseball data. They found 4,919 instances of a team taking the field after crossing two or three time zones but without enough time to adjust. People generally need a day of adjustment for each time zone crossed.

Their analysis was released Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Results of the new study generally showed that traveling eastward was more disruptive than going west, a known feature of jet lag. A surprise, though, was that home teams seemed to suffer its effects more than visiting teams did.

Among the findings:

- Over all the games in the 20 years, teams won about 54 percent of games played at home, showing a home field advantage of 4 percent. But that edge was obliterated when home teams that were jet-lagged from traveling eastward played teams with no apparent jet lag - an apparent result of seemingly small declines in performance.

- After traveling eastward, jet-lagged home teams hit fewer doubles and triples, stole fewer bases and grounded into more double plays than when they weren't affected. The impact on doubles was about one fewer per every seven games, while the other effects were smaller.

- Eastward travel was linked to pitchers allowing more home runs, both at home and away. The difference came to roughly one home run every 10 games.

The researchers suggested starting pitchers might get time to overcome jet lag if they are sent a few days ahead of the team to distant away games. Many teams send them ahead now on long flights, but it's usually only a few hours early, to avoid overnight travel.

The researchers said they had no explanation for why teams were more hampered by jet lag at home than when they played elsewhere. Maybe that reflects some protection from a more structured daily schedule on the road than at home, they suggested.

That's a reasonable idea, said Dr. W. Chris Winter, a Virginia sleep specialist who consults with several major league teams.

Winter, who has published research on how jet lag affects baseball teams but had no role in the new study, said the findings moved beyond simply documenting an effect on overall team performance toward learning more about it.

Ballplayers know jet lag a problem, and have recently taken steps to ease the burden of their schedules. The Major League Baseball Players Association, concerned about fatigue, negotiated several changes in scheduling rules starting in 2018. For example, each team's 162-game regular season schedule will be played over 187 days, up from 183. And there will be new rules on scheduling games, taking into account the timing of consecutive games.

What difference can jet lag make? Allada pointed to the National League Championship Series last October.

Los Angeles Dodgers pitching star Clayton Kershaw shut out the Chicago Cubs when he pitched against them in the Windy City, Allada noted. But when Kershaw returned from Los Angeles to face them again, the Cubs hit him hard, including two home runs.

"I can't attribute it all to jet lag," Allada said, but the study suggests the eastward trip might have played a role.

It's speculative and just one example, he said. But it's relevant "to those of us who are Chicago Cubs fans."

___

AP Baseball writer Ronald Blum contributed to this story.

___

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nvalvo

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Jul 16, 2005
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Oops! I failed to reload before posting my own thread, so I missed this one. Sorry.

Here's my post, which includes a bit more info and a link to the paper:

Northwestern University (where I teach; go Wildcats!) researchers have some striking findings out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, using baseball to analyze jetlag.

They suggest that eastward travel is the main culprit, which ran counter to my anecdotal expectation that the Sox will swoon on every west coast swing. We're accustomed to thinking the West Coast teams have it worse, but they suggest that home teams struggle more after eastward travel than visitors do, which is a bit of a head-scratcher. Maybe the team should get hotels for their first day or so back after a road trip?

They also have a few other specific findings that I found quite interesting. The abstract:

Laboratory studies have demonstrated that circadian clocks align physiology and behavior to 24-h environmental cycles. Examination of athletic performance has been used to discern the functions of these clocks in humans outside of controlled settings. Here, we examined the effects of jet lag, that is, travel that shifts the alignment of 24-h environmental cycles relative to the endogenous circadian clock, on specific performance metrics in Major League Baseball. Accounting for potential differences in home and away performance, travel direction, and team confounding variables, we observed that jet-lag effects were largely evident after eastward travel with very limited effects after westward travel, consistent with the >24-h period length of the human circadian clock. Surprisingly, we found that jet lag impaired major parameters of home-team offensive performance, for example, slugging percentage, but did not similarly affect away-team offensive performance. On the other hand, jet lag impacted both home and away defensive performance. Remarkably, the vast majority of these effects for both home and away teams could be explained by a single measure, home runs allowed. Rather than uniform effects, these results reveal surprisingly specific effects of circadian misalignment on athletic performance under natural conditions.
Paper (possibly paywalled for those without an academic library)
 

EricFeczko

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Apr 26, 2014
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Huh. Haven't had time to read the paper yet, but I wonder if differences in eating patterns might explain the asymetry. A player coming home may eat at a schedule attuned to the prior location, whereas a player in a hotel may be eating on a schedule more attuned to the current location.
Some sleep researchers hate to admit it, but the gut has a modulating effect on SCN as well.