As a right-handed person, I think it is a talent to be a left-handed person. There are a lot less left-handed people compared to people who are right-handed. Sometimes I wonder if left-handed people have an advantage in sports because there are a lot of talented sports players who are left-handed, and by saying that, I mean the ratio of left-handed player in sports is a lot bigger in the ratio of left-handed people in population. For example, Chris Bosh in NBA and Roger Federer in tennis.
Do left-handed players actually have an advantage in sports? Take tennis as an example again. A test was designed to test if left-handed players had an advantage in tennis games. Fifty-four right-handers and fifty-four left-handers were chosen in the test and were divided into three groups. Each of them has some tennis experience. They watched a video clip of sequences of tennis strokes and they were asked to predict the direction and the depth of the strokes. The strokes were hit by two left-handed players and two right-handed players. They players in the video all had the same experience in tennis and had the same age. The result showed that more prediction errors were made on strokes hit by left-handers. The graph of the result shows that there were more error occurred when predicting balls hit by left-handed player, which means there is an advantage for left-handed tennis players.
The result can be caused by chance, but the same result showed in all three groups of participants, including novices, intermediates and experts. There are not enough experiments to do meta analysis, but we can test if the theory is correct through other aspects.
In other sports, the “advantage” of left-handed people seems to exist as well. Seven of the best 16 fencers in the world are left-handed. Left-handed people seem to be more successful in boxing as well. A French neuroscientist named Guy Azemar did a research in this phenomenon. His theory was that a right-handed person needed to take 20 or 30 more milliseconds to proceed the action of a left-handed player, and that time can make a difference.
Another test done on 80 right-handed volunteers and 20 left-handed volunteers showed that left-handed people seem to naturally have a faster reaction. The experiment shows that left-handed people were 43 milliseconds faster at finding out matching letters from two visual fields than right-handed people. I did not find the specific experiment design that gives the result, but several different sources give the same answer: left-handed people reacts faster.
I did not find any sources that introduces the advantage of right-handed players in sports, so it is relatively safe to assume that the hypothesis that left-handed athletes have an advantage in sports is correct.
It seems that there is definitely an advantage for left handed athletes. However, the advantage becomes noticeable because the accumulation of several different aspects. Firstly, the video test shows that people are better predicting right-handed people’s action. I think this is probably because people’s habit. As there are more right-handed people in the world and a lot of things are designed for right-handed people, either left-handed or right handed people are more used to the right handed world. Athletes are also used to right-handed players. Left-handed athletes a lot of times may have different or even totally opposite actions in footing, actions and skill sets. These differences will make left-handed athletes to have a slight advantage in competitive sports such as tennis.
The advantage is slowly disappearing. In tennis, three of the top four players are left-handed in 1998. In 2010, only one of the top four players are left-handed – Roger Federer. The advantage of left-handed athletes are disappearing as more studies are done on them and more strategies are designed to compete with them.