Executive functioning profiles in elite volleyball athletes: Preliminary results by a sport-specific task switching protocol

Simone Montuori, Giulia D'Aurizio, Francesca Foti, Marianna Liparoti, Anna Lardone, Matteo Pesoli, Giuseppe Sorrentino, Laura Mandolesi, Giuseppe Curcio, Pierpaolo Sorrentino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Executive functions (EF) are crucial for the athletes’ success, and they are even more essential in open skill sports (e.g. volleyball and football). In these sports, due to continuously changing conditions, goal-directed behaviours need to be repeatedly adjusted and corrected. One of the most important EF is the ability to continuously switch between two different tasks being required in a random sequence. We used a task-switching protocol in elite volleyball athletes, usually playing different roles, with the aim of evaluating if each role is characterized by specific switching abilities. On the basis of the specific competences requested by the game, thirty-six elite volleyball athletes were assigned to three groups: Strikers, Defenders and Mixed. Each player completed a customized sport-specific task-switching paradigm. Data evidenced that each role has specific characteristics. In Reaction Times, the Strikers were the fastest to answer to stimuli, while the Defender group provided a worse performance, particularly when defensive actions, that probably require more cognitive elaboration, had to be processed. Different effects emerged by the Errors. In fact, the Mixed group, which was the one with more expertise, appeared to be more accurate in the responses. Although preliminary, these results showed a minimal degree of cognitive flexibility for highly specialized Strikers and a maximum level for Mixed, allowing thus to highlight specific profiles of athletes. Data observed indicate the possibility to develop a test assessing the executive domain during the recruitment in a team, revealing a useful tool for choosing the most suitable role.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-81
Number of pages9
JournalHuman Movement Science
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2018


  • Attention
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Frontal functions
  • Physical activity
  • Sport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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