Skip to main content
Northwestern University

Three Strikes and You’re…Out

Jet lag has a surprising impact on Major League Baseball players, neurobiologist Ravi Allada finds

Business travelers and tourists aren’t the only ones who suffer from jet lag’s well-known symptoms — fatigue, confusion and temporary cognitive deficit, among others.

It turns out that major-league baseball players also experience those effects, according to a recent study by neuro­biologist Ravi Allada, a Cubs fan interested in exploring the impact of long-distance travel on individuals’ circadian, or 24-hour, clocks. MLB players provided an ideal data set, because they travel across the country frequently and don’t have time to adjust their sleep schedules. Allada and his co-researchers examined data from 4,919 games played between 1992 and 2011 for which players traveled across at least two time zones.

They discovered that teams traveling eastward almost always performed worse than those traveling westward. They also found that when teams returned home, they exhibited impaired offense, likely due to the less-aggressive performance of their base runners. The big surprise for Allada: Jet-lagged pitchers, whether at home or on the road, give up more home runs. “The effect was so large that it negated the home-field advantage,” says Allada, the Edward C. Stuntz Distinguished Professor in Neuroscience. 

That effect translates to one home run every 10 games. That might not sound like much, but as Allada points out, it is “the difference between a playoff team and a team that’s far from making it to the playoffs.”

Learn More About

Ravi Allada’s research on jet lag and baseball
Back to top