Melbourne, Australia – The Golden State Warriors are your 2022 NBA champions. The Game 6 result was heartbreaking for Boston and their beloved Celtics, but a new study suggests the 2022 NBA Finals may not have played out evenly. What are we talking about here? Unlikely cause: jet lag.
That’s right, Monash University scientists say jet lag has put the Boston Celtics at a disadvantage during this year’s NBA Finals home games. After examining the impact of travel-related jet lag on NBA results, the researchers argue that the impact of jet lag on athletes’ performance is “significant.”
The authors of the study argue that the NBA (and other major sports leagues) should consider jet lag whenever a professional team needs to travel long distances across multiple time zones in a short amount of time.
“NBA teams often suffer from jet lag due to frequent travel across multiple time zones, with some teams disproportionately affected based on their geographic location. Traveling east can be a particular concern for East Coast teams who have to return to play. home games without sufficient recovery time,” said study senior author Dr Eliza Facer-Childs of the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health at Monash University Melbourne. statement.
“Traveling east when the destination time is later than the departure time requires the athlete to shorten the day (known as phase advance). As athletes progress through the phase, athletes often try to fall asleep earlier, which results in sleep loss and therefore a potential decrease in physiological performance and motivation the next day,” she adds. “Planners can mitigate these effects by compensating for travel east with increased cooldowns. allow athletes to re-sync with the new time zone”.
To explore this topic, the researchers analyzed data from 11,481 NBA games played over 10 seasons (from 2011-2012 to 2020-2021). This analysis led to the observation that eastward (but not westward) jet lag is clearly associated with poorer performance by home (but not away) teams.
Specifically, compared to home teams without jet lag, home teams that had just traveled east and experienced the jet lag showed:
- 6.03% less chance of winning
- The difference in points is lower by 1.29 points.
- Decreased rebound differential by 1.29 rebounds
- 1.2 percent reduction in scoring percentage
It is noteworthy that as jet lag increased, the negative impact on their game also increased. Playing with an hour jet east (from San Francisco to Boston with only 2 days of recovery), the home team’s point difference decreased by 0.72 points. Meanwhile, a two-hour eastward jet lag saw the home team’s point difference drop by 4.53 points.
Proper rest and recovery negate this problem. The authors of the study note that when players are given enough time to recover from a flight, their results are very similar to those when they did not travel at all.
“Giving the circadian system time to naturally rearrange the light-dark cycle at the destination could thus mitigate the observed lack of eastward travel,” explains Dr. Facer-Childs.
What if the schedule can’t be changed to give all players enough time to recover? The researchers suggest that team doctors and sleep specialists use any number of evidence-based interventions to help combat jet lag. Examples include specially timed light exposure and avoidance or melatonin supplementation.
The jet leg controversy in the NBA is nothing new
This isn’t the first time jet lag has taken place in the context of the NBA. Jet lag was a hot topic in the NBA during the 1980s. Why? In that decade, the league was dominated by Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics and Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers; two teams in different parts of the country. In 1985, the NBA decided to change the Finals schedule to a 2-3-2 format (games 1, 2, 6, and 7 are played in the higher seeded city, while games 3, 4, and 5 are played in the lower seeded city). city) in an attempt to minimize travel time between players.
But in 2014, the NBA changed the Finals schedule again to a 2-2-1-1-1 format. The rationale for this move was that all modern NBA teams now travel privately, making travel less tiring overall.
“However, while private jets may make cross-country flights less burdensome for players, they do not protect against jet lag induced circadian disruption (i.e. jet lag), especially when teams are not given enough time to adjust to new 24-hour destination environment (approximately 1 hour per day),” said study first author Josh Leota.
This study was published before the Warriors won the 2022 NBA title, but at the time, the authors of the study suggested that the Celtics might be facing some jet lag.
“According to the 2022 NBA Finals schedule, the Boston Celtics will play home games 3 and 6 with the option to change time zones to the east,” they wrote. “In this particular case, the Boston Celtics could benefit from chronobiology-based strategies designed to mitigate the symptoms of eastward jet lag and maximize competitive success. Note that in our study, we did not analyze playoff games. It’s likely that post-season higher stakes have likely already led homecoming teams to forgo social commitments in favor of pre-game and circadian resynchronization.
“Our data shows that in the regular season, home (but not away) teams playing in East time zones are at a particular disadvantage. We’re guessing that road teams haven’t been hit as hard due to the controlled environment of traveling NBA teams. Group leadership can mitigate the effects of jet lag by maintaining a structured schedule (e.g. transportation, meal timetreatment sessions of athletes and training) on the road compared to when athletes go to their homes and visit family and social obligations.
study published in The boundaries of physiology.