Nov 22, 2017

Why lefties have a competitive edge in certain sports

Pro-tennis player Martina Navratilova is left-handed. Photo: Jeff Daly / Invision via AP

A new study that analyzed whether left-handed people have a competitive advantage in sports over right-handed people found the distinction is more pronounced for sports in which a player has less time to react to an opponent, per the New York Times.

The score: Most players are trained to strategize based on righties' weaknesses (throwing a ball to their opponent's less dominant side, the left) which in turn may be an advantage for lefties because their opponents have a harder time anticipating their next move.

Details from the study:

  • Loffing studied six different sports: baseball, cricket, table tennis, badminton, tennis and squash — all of which incorporate a "standardized measure of time pressure," as Loffing described it.
  • Findings: Comparing all six sports, he found left-handed dominance was 2.6 times more likely in sports with higher time constraints like baseball, cricket and table tennis, than in those with lower time pressure (badminton, tennis and squash). "Nine percent of the top players were left-dominant in the slowest contest, squash, while 30 percent of the best pitchers were lefties in the fastest, baseball," reports NYT.
  • Loffing's bottom line: "We know that things like anticipation and decision-making are more difficult under time pressure," he said.
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