Attentional focus effects on neuromuscular characteristics during lower limb tasks in athletes: A systematic review

Dario Pompa*, Marco Beato, Howie J Carson, Selenia di Fronso, Zsanett Bondar, Maurizio Bertollo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstractpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Purpose: This study aimed to identify and synthesize information about the nature and quality of studies about attentional focus effects on neuromuscular characteristics during lower-limb exercise tasks in athletes.

Methods: Prisma PERSIST guidelines was used to search Scopus, Web of Science and EBSCO databases using keywords related to focus of attention, force production processes and athletes. Inclusion criteria required an age C 16 years and to be a healthy competitive athlete. Exclusion criteria applied for research about technical skills, postural control and asymmetry comparisons. Based on literature definition, athletic populations were categorized in four tiers or a ‘mixed group’: World class (tier 5); Elite (tier 4); Highly trained (tier 3); Trained /Developmental (tier 2); and mixed (different levels). Information used from each eligible study were the aims and design, participants characteristics,
Neuromuscular task, attentional focus conditions, outcome measures, findings, a risk of bias calculation and assessment of certainty against several established methodological issues identified within the literature.

Results: 296 studies were initially found, but only 15 met the inclusion criteria. Study aims addressed focus of attention on performance (n = 6), between skill level (n = 2), for learning (n = 5), as a preference on performance (n = 1) and one study did not state the aim. Studies used either a cross-over within-subjects (n = 9) or RCT (n = 6) design. Participants were mainly male (n = 440 vs. n = 96
females) consisting of one elite, four highly-trained, eight developmental and two mixed group samples. Studies mainly used single tasks: jump (n = 8), running acceleration (n = 3), isokinetic knee extension (n = 1) and lift (n = 1), performed with slow (n = 3), fast (n = 5) or combined (n = 2) stretch–shortening cycle, isometric (n = 1) and isokinetic (n = 1) muscle contraction. Outcome measured were kinetics (n = 13) or combined with EMG (n = 2). Most studies reported an advantage for external focus of attention (n = 8) with an average risk of bias score of Excellent. However, findings suffered in the assessment of certainty when reviewed against key criteria identified authors in the field.

Conclusions: Despite the low risk of bias, research does not address the needs of elite level athletes and there is currently limited evidence on each type of muscle contraction. There is also a need to incorporate methodological steps to ensure fair comparisons between attentional foci conditions. Research should focus on contextualised information within professional practice to be able to offer stronger translational implications for athletes and coaches.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S133
JournalSport Sciences for Health
Issue numberSuppl 1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2023


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