Leading With Their Left

Leading With Their Left


Left-handed people are generally better at sports that require good spatial judgment and fast reaction, compared to right-handed individuals.


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The "leftie advantage" seems to emerge in sports demanding rapid reactions and good spatial judgment. In fencing for example 7 of the 16 top world fencers are left-handed, and so are 5 of the top 25 international tennis players and 4 of Europe's ten best table tennis payers. In boxing, squash, and cricket left-handers also enjoy more than average success. Among the scientists who have studied left-handedness in sport one, in particular, a French neuroscientist named Guy Azemar, investigated the proportion of left-handers in world-class championships over several years. He reported that about a third of elite fencers are left-handed. One fencing great was the Italian Edoardo Mangiarotti who won a total of 13 fencing medals. Mangiarotti was naturally right-handed but was forced by his father to fence with his left hand as it was thought to be an advantage.

During his study for the French Institute of Sport and Physical Education, Azemar became convinced that sporting lefties have an innate advantage, particularly in "opposition" sports. To explain why he concentrates on the way the brain is wired up. The brain consists of two halves (hemispheres) each performing different tasks, and it is sometimes thought that in left-handers these functions are more evenly distributed between the two sides i.e. our brains are more symmetrical. For example, in a left-handed tennis player, the control of movements and part of space management is performed on the right side of the brain.

This means that the process of the player seeing the ball coming and actually hitting the ball are both dealt with by the same hemisphere. In a right-hander this visual information has to transfer to the opposite hemisphere to direct the player's movement, adding an extra 20 or 30 milliseconds to the reaction time - hardly significant one would think, but it can be decisive in world-class sport.


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