Jet Lag Negatively Affects Your Favorite Athletes, Too

Jan 25, 2017

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Could jet lag affect the performance of Major League Baseball players? A study released by Northwestern University suggests traveling through time zones could do more than increase drowsiness and overall discomfort.

In reviewing more than 40,000 actual games played between 1992 and 2011, the research team discovered that traveling across time zones had a direct effect on how baseball players performed on the field. In particular, teams playing at home immediately after a road trip produced less offense, while away teams traveling in performed better. In addition, teams that were jet-lagged experienced difficulty with reflexes and coordination, as the most jet-lagged groups had less offensive production in base running, stolen bases and multi-base hits.

Focus also appeared to be a problem for baseball players who experienced jet lag before a game. Researchers discovered a connection between jet lag and the number of home runs yielded. In particular, jet-lagged pitchers were predisposed to give up more home runs — to the point where any home field advantage was erased. Researchers illustrated this in an example from the 2016 National League Championship Series. Presumably experiencing jet lag after traveling east, pitcher Clayton Kershaw gave up two home runs, and a total of five runs, during game six of the series. Although the researchers noted it was speculation, jet lag appeared to be a factor in the pitcher’s overall performance.

Finally, the research team also noted that the direction of travel played into how much jet lag was a factor. When players were traveling east, the effects of jet lag were significantly stronger than when they were traveling west. Although they concluded the body can adjust to one hour of change per day, those who travel in a method that affects their internal clocks will face “negative consequences.”

Although jet lag is always a problem for individuals crossing multiple time zones at a time, there are steps travelers can take to mitigate its effects. Staying hydrated, changing watches before boarding and sleeping on an aircraft can all help reduce the symptoms of jet lag upon arrival. The Northwestern researchers added that those planning for a particular event should add lead time to their trip, in order to properly adjust for jet lag at the destination.

What are your favorite tips for avoiding jet lag?

Featured image courtesy of Emirates.

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