“A sprained ankle is the biggest sign of mental fatigue”: A qualitative study of the perceptions and experiences of mental fatigue in professional ballet

Matthew Wirdnam, Katia Ferrar, Susan Mayes, Clare MacMahon, Jill Cook, Ebonie Rio

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Abstract

Mental fatigue is known to influence endurance, skill, and tactical performance in sport. Research investigating the impact of mental fatigue on tasks that combine physical, cognitive, and aesthetic performance such as professional ballet does not exist. Objective: To understand the perceptions and experiences of mental fatigue in professional ballet. Design: Qualitative, focus groups and semi-structured interviews. Setting: The Australian Ballet. Participants: Thirty-nine professional ballet dancers (53% of the company) and six dance staff members aged 18 years or above (53% female). Main outcome measures: N/a. Results: The average focus group and interview length was 48 ± 7 min and 41 ± 8 min. Key categories were; (1) Dancers and dance staff perceive that new learning contributes to mental fatigue, (2) Dancers perceive changes to their mood and perception of effort when they are mentally fatigued, and (3) Dancers and dance staff perceive that mental fatigue negatively affects their physical and cognitive performance and, increases their risk of injury. Conclusion: This is the first study where participants associated mental fatigue with injury risk and provides a springboard to measure the impact of mental fatigue on learning, injury, and performance in professional ballet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-161
Number of pages8
JournalPhysical Therapy in Sport
Volume65
Early online date26 Dec 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Ballet
  • Injury
  • Learning
  • Mental fatigue
  • Performance

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