Soccer referees enforce the laws of the game and the decisions they make can directly affect match results. Fixtures within European competitions take place in climatic conditions that are often challenging (e.g., Moscow 5 degrees C, Madrid 30 degrees C). Effects of these temperatures on player performance are well-documented; however, little is known how this environmental stress may impair cognitive performance of soccer referees and if so, whether exercise exasperates this. The present study aims to investigate the effect of cold [COLD; 5 degrees C, 40% relative humidity (RH)], hot (HOT; 30 C, 40% RH) and temperate (CONT, 18 C, 40% RH) conditions on decision making during soccer specific exercise. On separate occasions within each condition, 13 physically active males; either semi-professional referees or semi-professional soccer players completed three 90 min intermittent treadmill protocols that simulated match play, interspersed with 4 computer delivered cognitive tests to measure vigilance and dual task capacity. Core and skin temperature, heart rate, rating of perceived exertion (RPE) and thermal sensation (TS) were recorded throughout the protocol. There was no significant difference between conditions for decision making in either the dual task (interaction effects: FALSE p = 0.46; MISSED p = 0.72; TRACKING p = 0.22) or vigilance assessments (interaction effects: FALSE p= 0.31; HIT p= 0.15; MISSED p= 0.17) despite significant differences in measured physiological variables (skin temperature: HOT vs. CONT 95% CI = 2.6 to 3.9, p < 0.001; HOT vs. COLD 95% CI = 6.6 to 9.0, p < 0.001; CONT vs. COLD 95% CI = 3.4 to 5.7, p < 0.01). It is hypothesized that the lack of difference observed in decision making ability between conditions was due to the exercise protocol used, as it may not have elicited an appropriate and valid soccer specific internal load to alter cognitive functioning.
- soccer referee