Social Media

This section considers the growing use of social media in modern day living and its impact on cognitive and physical performance. Kelly and colleagues in 2018 and 2019 collected data from over 10,000 14-year-old teenagers from the UK Millennium Cohort study. The study reported that social media use is associated with mental health in young people. Greater social media use related to online harassment, poor sleep, low self-esteem, and poor body image and in turn these related to higher depressive symptom scores. The findings of this seminal work highlight the potential pitfalls of lengthy social media use for young people's mental health.

Figure 14. Excessive screen time is associated with reduced cognitive and physical performance. Managing screen time is important for optimal sport performance.

At all levels of rugby, cognitive demands are made that force players to maintain concentration for prolonged periods of time and to take swift and accurate decisions in a highly dynamic environment. For example, Smith and colleagues in 2016 showed that mental fatigue induced by a cognitive task of 30 minutes, increased decision-making time and reduced the accuracy of players compared with a control group during game situations that were created during small-sided games.

In a more focused sport participation related study Greco and colleagues in 2017 reported that prolonged use of smartphones, which results in mental fatigue, can reduce the physical and technical performance of young team sport players. Their concluding remarks related to the necessity to educate the athletes on the conscientious use of technology. Further, studies have shown that mental fatigue can negatively impact on explosive strength, maximum muscular contraction, power, and anaerobic work capacities. In day to day life players already have many cognitive demands placed upon them, e.g. driving, education, work related tasks. The overuse of social media will contribute further to the cognitive demands and potential mental fatigue of players which in turn may lead to suboptimal performance.

While the smartphone provides a new world of information, communication and indeed education, it also has been shown when used excessively to become an addictive practice. This has placed new challenges in terms of managing this condition and within a sporting context preliminary evidence suggests that excessive smartphone usage has negatively impacted sport performance. The challenges not only face players but also coaches, physios, managers, and all involved within the game.