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Thomas Scott Lyons, FACSM, Lauren Killen, Matt Green, FACSM, Gaven Barker, Noah Bishop, Takeo Higgins. University of North Alabama, Florence, AL.

While the performance-enhancing effects of caffeine are well known, little is known about the effects of caffeine on hitting and running performance in Division-1 (D-1) softball athletes. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of caffeine on bat speed (BS) and sprint speed (SS) throughout the duration of a seven-inning game. Six D-1 softball athletes completed two double-blind, counterbalanced simulated game trials following ingestion of 6 mg/kg of caffeine or matched placebo taken one hour prior to data collection. During each simulated game trial, participants completed seven innings of five swings hitting a ball off a tee followed immediately by a sprint to first base after each swing. After the five swings and sprints, the players fielded ground balls continuously for three minutes. Each inning was separated by a passive six-minute rest period. Following each inning, heart rate (HR) and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) were assessed. BS and SS were measured after each swing and sprint. Fielding ground balls was used as a fatiguing protocol to simulate fatigue experienced during a game. Separate 2 (trial) x 7 (BS; SS) repeated measures analysis of variances (ANOVAs) were used to assess BS and SS for the seven innings. To analyze HR and RPE 2 (treatment) x 7 (innings) repeated measures ANOVAs were used. No differences were observed between the caffeine and placebo trials for HR or RPE. For bat speed, a main effect was observed for inning (p=0.005) and for interaction of treatment*inning (p=0.02). Paired t-tests revealed significant differences in bat speed at inning one (p=0.02) and inning four (p=0.004). For sprint speed, a main effect was observed for inning (p<0.001). Paired t-tests revealed significant differences in sprint speed at inning one (p=0.01) and inning four (p=0.05), and approached significance at inning three (p=0.07) and inning five (p=0.07). Post-trial surveys indicated a significantly greater sense of fatigue (p=0.05) following caffeine, and approached significance for feelings of restlessness (p=0.07) and muscle tremors (p=0.06) following caffeine. These data demonstrate that caffeine may have an ergogenic benefit in both bat speed and sprint speed for softball players, thus improving performance. However, a greater sense of fatigue was also observed, which could negatively affect other performance variables not measured in this study.

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