Ever wondered which holds more advantage: being left-footed or right-footed? A comprehensive scientific study by Ulrich S. Tran and Martin Voracek sheds light on this intriguing question. Dive into their findings below.
Unpacking Preferences: Left or Right?
When determining if you’re left or right dominant, consider the following questions:
- Which hand do you write with or use to handle a knife?
- With which foot do you pass a soccer ball, or perhaps, pick up a small stone with your toes?
In real-life scenarios, the answer isn’t strictly black and white. We often use both hands, and soccer players, for instance, can pass with either foot. Yet, many of us have a distinct preference, often resulting from a combination of genetic factors and other influences. Carolien de Kovel of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics mentions this aspect.
A Closer Look at the Study:
Ulrich S. Tran and Martin Voracek’s investigation at the University of Vienna utilized data from two distinct studies, comprising over 15,000 participants. Previous research indicates that around 10% of the global population is left-handed. In elite sports, left-handedness is more common, but that doesn’t necessarily make them more successful than their right-handed counterparts.
Interestingly, being left-handed can provide an edge in sports. For instance, boxers used to competing against right-handed opponents can find it challenging to adjust to left-handed competitors. Such findings also apply to left-footed individuals. Research suggests that being left-handed/footed is advantageous in team sports, martial arts, fencing, dancing, skiing, and swimming.
Mixing Left and Right:
Some individuals show mixed preferences, like favoring the left leg and the right hand or vice-versa. Out of 1,026 left-handed individuals studied, 59% were left-footed, 25% had mixed preferences, and 17% were right-footed. In contrast, 67% of 11,397 right-handed participants preferred their right foot, 30% had mixed preferences, and a mere 3% leaned towards the left foot.
Deeper Dive on Professional Athletes:
While researching this topic, I stumbled upon an article by Ozzy Obioma. He observed that soccer players like Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff, and Gareth Bale, among others, are left-footed but write with their right hand. Obioma theorizes that such individuals are generally more creatively inclined. However, he admits lacking concrete scientific proof for this hypothesis.
The Study’s Conclusion:
To address the primary question of which foot is more advantageous, the research suggests that being left-footed or having mixed foot preferences can be beneficial in both interactive and non-interactive sports. Such individuals might possess better coordination, speed, and strategic advantages.
Limitations and Future Directions:
Like many scientific studies, Tran and Voracek’s research isn’t without limitations. Despite a sizable participant pool, it didn’t delve deep into game-specific elements or varying skill levels, paving the way for further studies.
As a coach, it’s crucial to recognize players’ innate preferences. Do you hone their dominant side, or encourage ambidextrous skill? Watch this video where Marc Lammers shares his perspective.
Coaches can tactically deploy players based on their foot preference. A classic example is Hakim Zyjech’s left-footed pass during the Ajax vs. Bayern Munich match. Watch the moment here.
Tran US and Voracek M (2016) Footedness Is Associated with Self-reported Sporting Performance and Motor Abilities in the General Population. Front. Psychol. 7:1199. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01199