Did Jet Lag Help The Chicago Cubs Win the World Series?

Northwestern University researchers released a study claiming jet lag impairs the performance of major league baseball players. Scientists assert a trip across two or three time zones can negatively affect a player’s performance. The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.

“Jet lag does impair the performance of Major League Baseball players,” Dr. Ravi Allada, the lead researcher in the study, said. “The negative effects of jet lag we found are subtle, but they are detectable and significant. And they happen on both offense and defense and for both home and away teams, often in surprising ways.”

Dr. Allada studied over 20 years and thousands of baseball games. Dr. Allada’s team found a link between jet lag and team performance. Ultimately, a professional MLB player’s offensive performance is affected by jet lag.

Dr. Allada explained jet lag impaired baserunning, pitcher’s throwing performance, and essentially eliminated the home field advantage for a jet lagged team.

Surprisingly, jet lag affected teams who traveled east rather than traveling west. “This is a strong argument that the effect is due to the circadian clock, not the travel itself,” Allada said.

Allada reported jet lag may have had a key effect on the latest World Series. “For game 6, the teams had returned to Chicago from LA, and this time the Cubs scored five runs off of Kershaw, including two home runs,” Allada said. “While it’s speculation, our research would suggest that jet lag was a contributing factor in Kershaw’s performance.”

After reviewing the data Allada gave some advice to MLB managers. “If I were a baseball manager and my team was traveling across time zones — either to home or away — I would send my first starting pitcher a day or two ahead, so he could adjust his clock to the local environment,” Allada said.

What causes jet lag?

The medical term for jet lag is desynchronosis, also known as, circadian dysrhythmia. Jet lag is caused when an individual’s internal clock becomes impaired after traveling to a new destination, in a different time zone. Scientists refer to the internal clock as the body’s circadian rhythm.

Jet lag can cause sleep disorders. people can have trouble falling asleep after flying towards the east. Or, waking up too early after flying westward. Consequently, someone with jet lag can have problems concentrating or even experience headaches. Frequent movement can impact digestion. Digestion problems are also a symptom of jet lag as people. People who suffer from jet lag exhibit symptoms of indigestion and reduced interest in food.

Other researchers have studied jet lag and the impact it has on athletic performance in the past. In 2012, Sarah Forbes-Robertson and her team of researchers published a study on jet lag and athletic performance. “Circadian Disruption and Remedial Interventions” was published in the journal Sports Medicine. Researchers argued jet lag can affect performance. Therefore, Sarah Forbes-Robertson explained teams should use and chrono biotics such as melatonin to realign the human body’s circadian clock.