The Influence of the ‘Trier Social Stress Test’ on Free Throw Performance in Basketball: An Interdisciplinary Study

  • Mascret Nicolas
  • Ibáñez-Gijón Jorge
  • Bréjard Vincent
  • Buekers Martinus
  • Casanova Rémy
  • Marqueste Tanguy
  • Montagne Gilles
  • Rao Guillaume
  • Roux Yannick
  • Cury François

  • Stress
  • Sport
  • Performance
  • Basketball
  • Movement
  • Trier social stress test
  • Cortisol


The aim of the present study was to explore the relationship between stress and sport performance in a controlled setting. The experimental protocol used to induce stress in a basketball free throw was the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) and its control condition (Placebo -TSST). Participants (n = 19), novice basketball players but trained sportspersons, were exposed to two counterbalanced conditions in a crossover design. They were equipped with sensors to measure movement execution, while salivary cortisol and psychological state were also measured. The task consisted of two sequences of 40 free throws, one before either the TSST or Placebo-TSST and one after. Physiological and psychological measures evidenced that the TSST induced significant stress responses, whereas the Placebo-TSST did not. Shooting performance remained stable after the TSST but decreased after the Placebo -TSST. We found no effect of the TSST or Placebo-TSST on movement execution. A multivariate model of free throw performance demonstrated that timing, smoothness and explosiveness of the movements are more relevant to account for beginner's behavior than stress-related physiological and psychological states. We conclude that the TSST is a suitable protocol to induce stress responses in sport context, even though the effects on begin-ners' free throw performance and execution are small and complex.