Being Left-Handed May Actually Give You The Edge In Certain Sports

Table tennis is one sport where left-handed players may excel. Stefan Holm/Shutterstock

A study has suggested that people who are left-handed have an advantage over those that are right-handed in particular sports.

The difference was most notable in sports where time was of the essence. For example, in table tennis, the quick movements of the bat and ball seemed to favor left-handed players.

The findings, conducted by Florian Loffing from the University of Oldenburg in Germany, are published in the journal Biology Letters.

"Left-handed male and female players were more prevalent at the elite level of highly time-constrained sports as opposed to sports where players have more time available between actions," Loffing writes.

Previous research has suggested being left-handed is useful because it makes your movements unpredictable to a right-handed opponent. However, this study suggests the trait is applicable only to certain sports.

Looking at the top 100 players in six sports over several seasons, Loffing found that left-handed players were more prevalent only in sports that were time-constrained.

About 10 to 13 percent of the population is thought to be left-handed but certain sports have a surprisingly high number of left-handed players.

Examples included baseball, cricket, and table tennis, where the time between hitting hits or ball release was half that in other sports like squash, badminton, and tennis.

Out of the top 100 players in these sports, taken between 2009 and 2014, up to 30.4 percent were left-handed in the time-constrained sports. In those where there was more time available between actions, that number dropped to 8.7 percent.

Loffing noted that the "time pressure threshold" at which being left-handed was an advantage isn't yet known. Plus, there may be some physiological or psychological aspects that don't depend on which hand you use.

"Team-strategic considerations might additionally explain part of the excess of left-handedness in baseball and cricket," he writes.

"This, however, neither applies to racket sports nor contradicts the hypothesis of time pressure being one, but possibly not the only, factor moderating left-dominance."

An interesting point that's raised is that left-handedness has never been lost in humans because it offers some benefits, such as in a fight. There's still some way to go, though, to figure out why left-handed players excel in some sports but not others.

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