The impact of physiological fatigue and gaze behavior on shooting performance in expert biathletes
2020-09, Heinrich, Amelie, Hansen, Dan Witzner, Stoll, Oliver, Cañal-Bruland, Rouwen
Biathlon is a discipline that combines cross country skiing with rifle shooting. It demands high shooting accuracy and fast shooting times under increasing levels of physiological fatigue. Building on Vickers and Williams (2007), the current study aimed at scrutinizing the impact of physiological fatigue and gaze behavior on shooting performance in elite and sub-elite biathletes.
Ten members of the German national senior team (elite) and 13 members of the German national junior team (sub-elite) participated in a performance test. They conducted a roller skiing test on a treadmill including four increasing intensity levels followed by shooting blocks of five shots in both prone and standing position.
Physiological measurements consisted of heart rate and blood lactate, shooting performance data included shooting accuracy and time. Eye movements were assessed, i.e. the duration of the final fixation, using a gun-mounted eye tracking system.
Physiological fatigue systematically increased across intensity levels. There were no differences between elite and sub-elite biathletes in percentage shooting accuracy. However, elites needed shorter shooting times than sub-elites. Both groups showed increased range times with increased workload levels in prone and standing positions. Yet, there was no effect on shooting accuracy. Finally, analyses of a subset of data did not show any effect of final fixation duration on shooting accuracy.
Physiological fatigue seems to have no impact on shooting accuracy, but rather affects shooting times in expert biathletes. Furthermore, the duration of the final fixation does not seem to moderate shooting accuracy in elite biathletes.