John Korduner/Icon Sportswire AXA/John Korduner/Icon Sportswire/Newscom

Why lefties have the upper hand in sports

Left-handed athletes do better in sports because players are not as used to how they pitch the ball or throw a punch. At least that’s been the common thinking. But a new study suggests that this only holds true for a particular type of sport. Researchers gathered rankings and handedness stats for the top 100 players in six sports over multiple seasons, and combined these with video analysis of professional matches and recorded pitch speeds. It turns out that left-handed players are more common (and thus likely to have a competitive advantage) only in time-constrained sports, the team reports today in Biology Letters. In these sports—including baseball, cricket, and table tennis—the time between racket-ball contacts or ball release to bat-ball contact is about half of that in sports like squash, badminton, and tennis, the researchers report. That means players have less time to compensate for the different playing styles of left-handed athletes. Perhaps more practice against left-handed opponents will tune players’ reaction times and level the playing field?