I read the other day about a study showing that overtraining wears down athletes not just physically, but mentally. The researchers asked half of a group of triathletes to increase their normal training volume by 40 percent and the control group to continue their normal programs. After several weeks, they put all the subjects in a brain scanner and asked them questions intended to test their capacity for delaying gratification, like whether they wanted $10 now, or $60 in six months. The athletes who had maintained their usual training were more likely to choose the bigger, longer-term rewards than their overtrained counterparts.
I want to be very up-front about the fact that I’m speculating here based on what I’ve seen in games, but I couldn’t help but think of that article this weekend after the Portland Thorns lost to Reign FC. That there is some kind of physical and emotional toll being exacted on the players who went to the World Cup — or varying kinds of tolls, depending on the player and what they went through in France — is a conclusion that is hard to avoid at this point. Megan Rapinoe obviously took some time off after seemingly playing through the final World Cup matches while patched together with painter’s tape; other players, either because they didn’t play much, or played a lot but felt fine, or played a lot and didn’t feel fine but decided to push insistently through the pain, did not take that time off.
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