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Sport Science Review, vol.

Sport
XXII,Science
no. 1-2,
2013,vol.
25 -XXII,
32 No. 1-2, April 2013
Review,
DOI: 10.2478/ssr-2013-0002

The Effects of Caffeine on Repeated


Sprint Performance in Team Sport Athletes
- A Meta-Analysis Stephen J. BROWN1 Julie BROWN2 Andrew FOSKETT3

quivocal findings exist regarding the ergogenic effects of


caffeine in repeat sprint performance in team sports, and there
is currently no meta-analysis of available data. Therefore, appropriate
studies were obtained from electronic databases following identification
using pre-determined search criteria. Extracted data on repeat sprint
performance in team sport athletes were entered into a meta-analysis to
determine a summary statistic for overall effect. Eight studies provided
suitable data for analysis. Pooled data on sprint distances of 15m (Z=1.81,
P=0.07), 18.3m (Z=0.26, P=0.79), 20m (Z=0.13, P=0.90), 30m (Z=1.26,
P=0.21), and 36.6m (Z=0.78, P=0.44) indicated no ergogenic effect
attributable to caffeine ingestion. Thus, the current available evidence does
not support an ergogenic effect for caffeine in repeat sprint performance
in team athletes.

Keywords: caffeine, sprint performance, meta-analysis

1 School of Health Sciences, University of Ballarat, VIC, Australia


2 The Cochrane Review Group, FMHS, University of Auckland, New Zealand
3 School of Sport and Exercise, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand
ISSN: (print) 2066-8732/(online) 2069-7244
2013 National Institute for Sport Research Bucharest, Romania
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Caffeine and Sprint Performance

Introduction
The pervasive use of caffeine as a mild stimulant, as indicated by the habitual
consumption of coffee and tea, has provoked interest in its potential ergogenic
effects in sports performance. Caffeine appears to have an ergogenic effect for
prolonged endurance exercise, where increases in both exercise duration and
mean power output have been reported (Doherty & Smith, 2004). There is also
evidence to support an ergogenic effect of caffeine for shorter duration highintensity exercise (Stuart et al. 2005; Paton et al. 2001). With regards to high intensity
intermittent activity, the International Society of Sports Nutrition state: Caffeine
supplementation is beneficial for high-intensity exercise, including team sports
such as soccer and rugby, both of which are categorised by intermittent activity
within a period of prolonged duration (Goldstein et al. 2010). However, relevant
evidence which supports the translation of caffeines ergogenic effects into
performance in sports which require multiple sprints actually remains equivocal.
A number of studies have examined the ergogenic effects of caffeine on
repeat sprint performance in team sports. Paton et al. (2001), Foskett et al. (2009),
and Woolf et al. (2009) all reported no difference in sprint performance when
caffeine ingestion was compared to placebo. Similarly, Astorino et al. (2012)
reported no effect of caffeine on sprint times in soccer players. In contrast
caffeine has been reported to improve sprint performance in team sport players
following ingestion of anhydrous caffeine (Carr et al. 2008) and a caffeinated
beverage (Del Coso et al. 2012) compared to placebo. Furthermore, Gant et al.
(2010) and Roberts et al. (2010) reported quicker sprint times following ingestion
of a carbohydrate-caffeine solution compared to a carbohydrate only control in
soccer players and rugby players respectively.
As repeated periods of high intensity, short duration sprint activity are a
consistent feature of many team sports, it is reasonable to further scrutinise
these discrepancies in regard to any possible ergogenic effects of caffeine on
multiple sprint performance. Therefore, the aim of this meta-analysis was to
examine appropriate studies to identify whether current data support, or refute,
any ergogenic effect of caffeine ingestion on repeat sprint performance in team
sport athletes.
Methods
Three electronic databases were searched form inception to 2012 (Medline,
Pub-Med, and Sport Discuss) using the following search terms: caffeine;
exercise; soccer; team sports; football; sprint performance. Studies which used
non-running sprint modalities (e.g. stationary cycle ergometer sprint tests, and
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Sport Science Review, vol. XXII, No. 1-2, April 2013

Wingate cycle sprint tests) were excluded from the analysis. Similarly, only studies
which provided an appropriate description of both subject population and type
of team sport performed by the subjects, were included.
The computer programme Rev-Man-5.1 (Review Manager, 2011) was
used for data entry and subsequent analysis. Available data were pooled with an
overall test statistic (Z) and probability (P) calculated. Data were independently
retrieved form the selected original research papers by two experienced
academics (SB and AF), and where necessary, a third person (JB) was used to
provide expert opinion.
Results
Eight studies provided suitable data for the meta-analysis, covering a range
of sprint distances from 15m (16.4 yards) to 36.6m (40 yards), and these are
summarised in the Forest plot shown in figure 1. Standard mean difference
ranged from +0.27 (where positive favoured placebo) to -0.61 (where negative
favoured caffeine). When the test for overall effect was calculated for each sprint
distance, Z values ranged from 1.81 (P=0.07) to 0.13 (P=0.90) with no outcome
significantly favouring caffeine (all P>0.05).

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Caffeine and Sprint Performance

Figure 1. Forest Plot on sprint performance in team sport athletes comparing


caffeine ingestion with placebo.
Discussion
This meta-analysis of pooled data from 8 suitable studies does not support
any ergogenic effect of caffeine ingestion on repeat sprint performance in team
sport athletes. With the limited available data and the equivocal findings of the
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Sport Science Review, vol. XXII, No. 1-2, April 2013

studies comprising this meta-analysis, we are confident that currently there is no


convincing argument to support the use of caffeine ingestion in the preparation
of team sport athletes for enhancing sprint performance. Clearly there is a need
for further research, and controlled, randomized trials with sufficient subject
numbers. Drinks containing caffeine are likely to remain ubiquitous in society,
and caffeine is now a common additive to sports drinks whilst we do not
identify any detrimental effects of caffeine ingestion on sprint performance in
team sport athletes, the ergogenic effect on sprint performance of such ingestion
is not supported by this meta-analysis. There may be positive effects of caffeine
on other measures of performance during team sports (e.g. counter-movement
jump height (Foskett et al, 2008; Gant et al 2010)) however these are beyond the
scope of this analysis. Caffeine may be gaining popularity as an ergogenic aid in
soccer (Pereira et al. 2012), particularly during the higher intensity intermittent
interval training which is commonplace in team sports (Ferrari Bravo et al. 2008;,
Stolen et al. 2005), however there is little evidence to support this strategy.
In the current meta-analysis, we used a pooled standard deviation and
a standardized mean difference (SMD) this is a dimensionless value which
includes an adjustment for small sample bias. This has been used in preference
to the effect size (ES) as used by others (Paton et al. 2001), and is in contrast
to Doherty and Smith (2004), where the effectiveness of caffeine ingestion with
regard to human exercise performance was calculated using ES. The ES is a
dimensionless value centred at zero if caffeine has a neutral effect compared to the
placebo, and given by: ES = (meancaffeine meanplacebo)/SDplacebo. Thus, if a caffeine
trial resulted in a greater value for a dependent variable compared to placebo
and this denoted an improved performance (e.g. an increased endurance time), a
positive ES would be calculated and subsequently classified according to methods
described by Cohen (1977). Although we have chosen a different method to that
of Doherty and Smith (2004), we are confident that Rev-Man-5.1, as used by the
Cochrane Collaboration, provided a robust statistical tool for our meta-analysis.
Four of the studies (Carr et al. 2008; Del Coso et al. 2012; Gant et al. 2010;
Roberts et al. 2010) used in the meta-analysis independently reported significant
benefits on sprint performance when caffeine ingestion was compared to
a placebo these findings were not supported when the data were pooled.
This is likely due to the small standard mean difference (similar to effect size)
calculated for these studies, and relatively small subject numbers. This finding
further supports the importance of using multiple studies to inform practice,
and we would encourage sports practitioners, coaches, and those involved in
training team sport athletes to exercise caution when recommending caffeine as
an ergogenic aid.
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Caffeine and Sprint Performance

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Caffeine and Sprint Performance

Stephen BROWN BSc (Hons), PhD is a senior lecturer in anatomy and physiology at
the University of Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. He has previously held senior positions
at Massey University (NZ), and DeMontfort University (UK). Dr Browns research
interests are human cardio-respiratory physiology and exercise science, and he provides
independent scientific support to health care companies. He has authored many
manuscripts on human physiology, and is currently a course coordinator in anatomy and
physiology for a large undergraduate nursing programme.
Corresponding address:
Stephen J. Brown
School of Health Sciences,
University of Ballarat,
University Drive,
Mount Helen,
VIC 3353,
Australia.
Phone: +61 3 53276258
Fax: +61 3 5327 9478
E-mail: sj.brown@ballarat.edu.au
Julie BROWN, PhD RGN is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the University of
Auckland, New Zealand, where she has worked for the last 7 years. She earned her PhD
in psychoneuroimmunology from the University of Wolverhampton, UK. She works in
the area of research synthesis and translational health covering topics such as menstrual
disorders and subfertility, physical activity and health, and gestational diabetes. She is
an author on over 24 Cochrane systematic reviews and protocols and has been a lead
researcher in the production of national clinical practice guidelines in New Zealand. Julie
can be contacted on j.brown@auckland.ac.nz
Andrew FOSKETT, PhD is currently a Senior Lecturer in the School of Sport & Exercise
Science at Massey University, Auckland (NZ). Andrew completed his PhD in Exercise
Physiology in 2004 at Loughborough University (UK) examining the metabolic demands
of high intensity intermittent activity. He has continued his research in this field and has
published regularly in exercise science journals in the areas of nutritional intervention
and performance during intermittent activity and team sports as well as presenting his
research at various National and International Sports Science and Medicine conferences.
Andrew can be contacted on a.foskett@massey.ac.nz

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