Change of direction (COD) and agility are common athletic manoeuvres requiring athletes to possess a combination of physical, technical and tactical attributes to evade or pursue opponents. These are particularly important qualities in basketball as aggressive directional changes occur throughout a game as athletes compete for positional advantage. Whilst research has focused on investigating differences in performance times and lower body kinetics and kinematics, from both a performance and injury prevention perspective, investigation into the neuromuscular profile of COD and agility movements is non-existent. Various neuromuscular factors have been shown to differ between elite and novice athletes, with improvements observed in jumping and sprinting mechanics as a result of neuromuscular training. While the relative involvement and functional significance of these neuromuscular factors have yet to be established during COD and agility performance, studies have also observed limited translation to improvements in COD and more specifically agility following neuromuscular training programs. While strength training has been found to result in both nervous system and muscle morphology changes, targeting one component (physical) may not be sufficient when added decision-making (cognitive) components are required when changing direction. Additionally, throughout the duration of a game, physical fatigue, due to a number of reasons (metabolic, neuromuscular, etc.) cause a decrement in performance. Numerous studies have investigated the effects of neuromuscular fatigue post game on jump performance however the implication of physical fatigue on COD performance and “cognitive fatigue” during agility performance has yet to be investigated.
Therefore the collective outcomes of these studies will enable 1) the differences and relative significance of various neuromuscular variables between faster and slower COD and agility performances to be established, 2) determine the limiting neuromuscular characteristics of COD and agility, and 3) determine how COD and agility performance and associated neuromuscular mechanisms change as a result of fatigue.
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