March 14, 2024

Why Fatigue is the Biggest Factor in NHL and NBA

To understand how fatigue can factor into sports betting, most of the research has been focused on major North American leagues such as the NFL, NBA, MLB and the NHL.

All of these leagues have different physical demands. However, it’s pretty obvious that some are a lot more demanding than others, especially over an entire season.

The NFL is arguably the most physically demanding sport on a game-to-game basis, but with only 16 regular season games it’s hard to consider it the most demanding overall. Major League Baseball plays the highest number of regular-season games during the season at 162 but it’s easily the least physically demanding each game.

Physicality and heavy schedules converge to make a perfect storm of fatigue in the NHL and NBA. Teams in both leagues play 82 games per season and both are physically demanding. Of the two, hockey is definitely the more physical game and the one that fatigue arguably plays the biggest role in.

How Fatigue Affects NHL Players

In the NBA, fatigue factors are certainly at play even if the sport isn’t as physically demanding as the NHL. For one, there are fewer NBA players that hit the court in a game (nearly half as many as the average NHL team). Second, the top NBA players are on the court for a lot longer per game.

While physical contact isn’t as brutal as the NHL it’s still an exhausting game. There’s a toll on the knees, hips, ankles joints, and overall stamina. Some of the most gruesome injuries we’ve seen in professional sports over the years have been from freak leg injuries from basketball players landing awkwardly on a jump. Gordon Hayward of the Boston Celtics comes to mind.

That being said, injuries still don’t play the same factor as they do in the NHL. In the 2018-19 season in the NBA, teams had lost 67 man-games to injury at the halfway point of the season. In the NHL, the average team had lost 104 man-games to injuries at the same point in the season.

The Travel Factor for NBA and NHL

As mentioned before, the NBA and the NHL are both two of the most travel-heavy leagues in all of sports. Even though the MLB plays twice as many games, the three-games series actually mean that pro baseball players travel less than athletes in the NHL and NBA.

Both the NHL and NBA have 41 road games in a season, with flights between every stop. The MLB has 82 road games, but if they travel on average once every three road games, then they actually fly from city to city less than 30 times per season.

There’s one other important thing to note about the tole travel plays in fatigue.

The West Coast Bias

It’s no secret to sports fans that in North America, eastern teams represent only about a quarter of the continent geographically. That means that teams out West are subjected to much longer travel schedules than their eastern counterparts.

That can be most grueling for some of the Canadian teams in the NHL, in particular. The Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, and Calgary Flames tend to travel more miles than any other teams in North American professional sports.

Even teams in California are subjected to more travel than teams in the Northeastern corner of North America, where the population density is much greater. That’s something to pay attention to, especially deeper into the regular season.

Some teams, such as the Canucks, previously invested in having sleep doctors and sleep consultants to help work around the challenges of extra travel. Understanding how different teams deal with fatigue can pay off when deciding who to bet on.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *