Laterality in sport: Does sport-specific training impact everyday limb preference?


Factors such as preference, context, and location of an object in space affect whether an individual will reach across the midline of the body in a specific movement (Bryden, Scharoun, & Dargavel, 2014). The high demand for bilateral limb-use in sport-specific training may also influence limb selection. Whether limb choices within sport are specific to training or not, discrepancies in everyday actions may develop relative to what choices would be made without such training. To test this prediction, 10 athletes (volleyball, baseball, soccer) and 10 non-athletes completed questionnaires (Waterloo Handedness Questionnaire, athletic profile) and a preferential reaching task that consisted of manipulating wooden dowels and rubber mallets located at 3 equidistant locations (left, right, midline) in 2 conditions (pick-up, use). Limb choice for manipulation was recorded as the dependent measure. Findings provided preliminary evidence supporting the hypothesis that athletes would demonstrate more bilateral preference than their non-athlete counterparts. As differences were found predominantly in left space, sport-specific training may play a role in athletes displaying a higher degree of comfort and competence with their non-preferred limb. A tentative explanation for this might be that comfort and competence levels with a non-dominant limb are impacted by years of high-level sport-specific training in sports requiring bilateral limb use. Data collection will continue with the goal of disentangling this impact based on the type of sport played.

Acknowledgments: This research was funded by a start-up grant from the University of Windsor