Ever wondered how professional athletes are able to travel the country, or world, without letting fatigue affect their performance? It turns out, they’re not able to. A new study was just released detailing the cost of jet travel on major league baseball players and the findings are interesting.
MLB players criss-cross America for more than half the year, constantly putting their body through different time zones while having to remain focused on winning each night. These alterations in environment can hamper a player’s performance, undoubtedly.
Clayton Kershaw, ace pitcher of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is one player who seemed to be adversely affected by jet lag during last year’s postseason. According to Northwestern University professor, Ravi Allada, the Dodgers having to travel east to face the Chicago Cubs could have hampered Kershaw’s performance in Game 6 of the NLCS. His study concluded that baseball teams play worse on defense when jet lagged and pitchers who travel east give up more home runs.
Baserunning is another area that seems to be negatively affected by jet lag. Baserunners who were returning to their home stadium after a lengthy road trip tended to steal fewer bases and hit into more double plays than away players. This lack of “baserunning aggression” could instead be a lack of proper thought-processing due to mental fatigue.
Given that baserunning is affected, it only follows that a team’s overall offensive production suffers. But interestingly enough, it’s the home team that suffers most. Researchers believe the reason for this is lack of structure. When players arrive back home after a lengthy road trip, they typically have several household duties to catch up on. This compounds the chaos factor having already dealt with jet lag. Meanwhile, away teams live a much more structured lifestyle—they stay at 5-star hotels, don’t have to shop or drive kids to school, and they have a set schedule to follow.
It’s also true that normal business travelers suffer from similar effects of jet lag. Allada says, “Travel across two or three time zones can have significant affect on your performance… People should be mindful of it, and mindful of it even when they return home.”
There’s no way around jet lag when traveling for work, but you can do your part by maintaining a healthy diet and snagging as much sleep as you can, when you can. As for Dodgers fans? The jet lag scapegoat isn’t going to rectify the tough NLCS loss.
— Emilee Morehouse (@darkkhorsetrav) January 21, 2017