Integrating EMG with GPS to assess neuromuscular fatigue in team sport activity

Neale Tillin, University of Roehampton (UK)


It is not currently possible to assess real-time neuromuscular fatigue during team sport. Neuromuscular fatigue reduces performance (1) and can increase risk of injury (2,3), so monitoring neuromuscular fatigue in real-time will benefit coach decision-making. Monitoring neuromuscular fatigue may also help individualise training and recovery. For example, a player regularly experiencing greater neuromuscular fatigue than others in a match may benefit from fitness training to improve fatigue resistance (1). Alternatively, a player displaying greater neuromuscular fatigue than usual for the same external loading (e.g., distance covered) may benefit from a rest period from training to avoid overtraining syndrome (4).

Current team sport wearables (GPS and IMUs) do not directly measure neuromuscular fatigue, only the external loads (running distance, speed, acceleration) causing neuromuscular fatigue (5). Neuromuscular fatigue is a reduction in maximum exercise performance and/or increased effort for a given submaximal exercise intensity (6). GPS and IMU devices could conceivably measure reductions in maximum exercise performance (e.g., sprint speed), but only if the player is known to be attempting the same maximum sprint effort over a given distance at regular intervals, which cannot be ensured or controlled for in a match. Further, GPS and IMU devices cannot detect increased effort for a submaximal exercise intensity. In summary, we are currently unable to measure neuromuscular fatigue, defined by reduced maximum exercise performance or increased effort for a given submaximal intensity, in real-time match play; yet such knowledge may inform tactics, predict injury, and direct training. 

We predict EMG coupled with GPS data in team sport, can be used to monitor player neuromuscular fatigue during match play, by monitoring changes in muscle activity for given submaximal exercise intensities.

About Dr. Neale Tillin

My research investigates the neuromechanical and physiological factors influencing human skeletal muscle force production, with particular interest in rapid force production which is important for rapid human movements such as sprinting, balance recovery, and rapid directional changes. I have published widely in this field, having studied it in the context of strength training, fatigue, exercise in the heat, disuse and limb amputation. More recently, I have been leading research into the utilisation of wearable technology for the purposes of monitoring player loading in team sports. I have been teaching and researching human neuromuscular performance at the University of Roehampton since 2010. Prior to this, I studied my PhD at Loughborough University (2007-2010), MSc at the University of Western Australia (2006), and my BSc at Cardiff Metropolitan University (2001-2004).



Deputy Dean
Dr. Neale Tillin

University of Roehampton

United Kingdom

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