Fundamental relationships of executive functions and physiological abilities with game intelligence, game time and injuries in elite soccer players


Hans-Erik Scharfen, Daniel Memmert


The study examined the (1) interrelation of cognitive-athletic performance concerning game time and (2) injuries; (3) relation between executive functions and game intelligence. A total of 172 elite soccer players (age: 12–34 years) performed tests assessing multiple-object-tracking, working memory capacity (WMC), cognitive flexibility (CF), and inhibition. General and specific-endurance-performance, and physical performance (jumps and sprint) were also measured. Game intelligence, time and injuries were tracked. WMC, CF, and a total cognition score showed correlations with game intelligence, and the same parameter, along with selective attention and game intelligence were also correlated with game time. Sprint and specific-endurance were connected with game time, whereas contact injuries only correlated with sprint, and noncontact injuries with sprint and general-endurance. Especially executive functions represent fundamental associations with game intelligence and -time across all age groups, whereas certain physiological abilities may contribute to more game time and less non-contact injuries depending on age.