Soccer and Futsal: Validating a 4-Instrument Protocol for Assessing Executive Function in Female Athletes

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In sports like soccer and futsal, success is often tied to strong cognitive abilities, specifically executive functions. However, existing research lacks a consistent set of tools to measure these functions, leading to varied results. In this study, the reseachers combined four established measures to create a reliable 4-instrument protocol for evaluating executive functions in female soccer and futsal players.

They conducted two studies to validate their protocol. The first study, involving 105 athletes from elite and lower-division clubs, revealed partial validity of the protocol, with working memory and inhibition showing the strongest results. In the second study, using data from 51 elite female soccer players over a season, the protocol partly confirmed previous findings and provided new insights. The researchers discovered that different cognitive skills, such as working memory, processing speed, and higher-level executive functions, played distinct roles in goal-scoring and assist-making abilities.

While the first study didn’t find significant differences in higher-order executive functions between elite and lower-division athletes, it emphasized visual working memory and inhibitory control, which are crucial for core executive functions. The second study showed that processing speed and visual working memory were significant predictors of assists among elite players, contrary to previous findings about inhibitory control.

Overall, the proposed 4-instrument protocol demonstrated satisfactory validity in both studies, offering a valuable tool for assessing cognitive abilities in female soccer and futsal athletes.

Alberto Filgueiras, Matthew Stults-Kolehmainen, Gislane Melo & Richard Keegan
BMC Psychology
Published: 09 December 2023

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