Smartphone Use Among High Level Swimmers Is Associated With Mental Fatigue and Slower 100- and 200- but Not 50-Meter Freestyle Racing

Percept Mot Skills. 2021 Feb;128(1):390-408. doi: 10.1177/0031512520952915. Epub 2020 Aug 31.


Discovering any performance degradation effect of racing swimmers' use of social media smartphone apps might lead to new training and race preparation protocols, including pre-meet smartphone avoidance. This study's objective was to analyze the performance effects of using smartphone social media apps on the 50, 100, and 200-m freestyle among 25 high-level swimmers. Each participant performed the three race distances in two conditions: with smartphone app exposure (50-MF, 100-MF, and 200-MF) and without (50-CON, 100-CON, and 200-CON). We randomized the order of these two conditions across participants. While smartphone app use was not associated with statistically significant performance differences on the shortest race (50CON versus 50MF), a repeated measures ANOVA showed a significant condition × time interaction for the swimmers'100-m freestyle performance (p = 0.01), with a significantly slower performance following smartphone app use evident in the last half of this race (p = 0.02) but not in the first half (p = 0.41). We also found a condition × time interaction in the same direction (slower for swimmers who used the smartphone app) for the 200-m freestyle performance (p = 0.01), with the slower performance occurring in the second (p = 0.01) but not the first (p = 0.91), third (p = 0.07) or fourth (p = 0.06) quarters of this race. Thus, prolonged smartphone social media app use was associated with reduced performance from elite swimmers on the 100- and 200- but not the 50-m freestyle.

Keywords: cognition; fatigue; media; performance; psychology.

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Performance*
  • Humans
  • Mental Fatigue
  • Smartphone*
  • Swimming