Why Do Certain Sports Have a Lot More Left-Handed Athletes Than Other Sports?

Fagjun | Published 2017-11-30 05:13

Being left-handed may be an advantage to athletes in specific sports wherein time pressures are particularly demanding.

Rafael Nadal [Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images]



There are those who believe that left-handed athletes have a certain advantage over right-handed athletes. The question, of course, is whether or not this is true. Only ten to thirteen percent of the population is left-handed, but there are a lot of top-tier athletes who are also left-handed. There’s Martina Navratilova and Rafael Nadal in tennis, Lou Gehrig and Clayton Kershaw in baseball, and Jun Mizutani and Ding Ning in table tennis, to name a few. However, left-handed athletes in other sports aren’t as remarkable as the ones in the sports mentioned above, as well as others. What, therefore, makes left-handedness advantageous in certain sports?


A new study suggests that the more that time constraints are vital in a sport, the more that left-handed athletes shine. This may be because left-handedness forces right-handed opponents to adjust, and the time constraints ensure that they would struggle to do so.

The Top Athletes

Ding Ning [Photo by Rémy Gros ITTF]



Researcher Florian Loffing looked up the names of the top 100 athletes in sports such as tennis, table tennis, badminton, squash, and the top 100 male athletes in baseball and cricket. Loffing also looked at whether or not the athletes were left-handed, and he also only looked at the years 2009 to 2014. Only players that appeared in the top 100 numerous times were counted. Loffing only considered the bowlers for the batting sports.


Martina Navratilova [Photo via Getty Images]



According to the findings, 30 percent of the best baseball pitchers were left-handed, as were 26 percent of the best male table tennis players and over 19 percent of the best female tennis players. Meanwhile, the findings also showed that the sports with the slower response times had fewer left-handed athletes at the top. For example, only 8.4 percent of squash players were left-handed. The findings suggest that left-handedness may indeed give athletes an advantage when it comes to fast-paced competitive sports.


There have been other guesses as to why left-handedness seems to be advantageous, in certain sports at least. One hypothesis states that left-handedness may mean that there are more efficient connections between the left and right hemisphere of the brain. However, another question is the evolutionary significance of being left-handed.

An Evolutionary Advantage?

Lou Gehrig



While being left-handed gives you an advantage in certain sports, will it give you better chances of survival? Loffing hazards a guess: maybe early left-handed humans also had an advantage when it came to fighting other humans and even animals. He points out that previous research has shown that left-handedness is more common in war-like society. It may be why we have not yet evolved left-handedness out as well. It can give us an advantage in competitive scenarios, be it in sports, war, or one in which you’d have to fight off a predator.


Other experts, however, warn that being left-handed won’t automatically ensure that you’ll be at the top of your sport. Chris McManus, a psychology and medical education professor, says that left-handed amateurs won’t be able to perform anywhere near the level that the best left-handed athletes can.

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