Home Mind & Brain Study Reveals Ice-Hockey Stick Preference Tied to Handedness, Footedness, and Eyedness

Study Reveals Ice-Hockey Stick Preference Tied to Handedness, Footedness, and Eyedness

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A recent study published in PLOS One uncovers intriguing insights into how ice hockey players choose which way to shoot, revealing significant correlations with their handedness, footedness, and eyedness. This study, conducted by researchers at Université Laval, challenges previous assumptions and highlights the complexity of lateral preferences in sports.

The study aimed to explore the association between the way players hold an ice hockey stick and their lateral preferences in other tasks. The researchers gathered data from 854 participants, including a mix of right-handers, left-handers, and ambidextrous individuals. Participants completed a questionnaire about their preferences for various unimanual (single-handed) and bimanual (two-handed) tasks.

The findings indicate that most right-handers prefer shooting left in ice hockey, while left-handers tend to shoot right. Specifically, 66.2% of right-handers and 70.2% of left-handers exhibited this cross-lateral preference. Among ambidextrous individuals, 61.3% preferred shooting right. This cross-lateral preference is significant because it suggests that players use their dominant hand for finer control rather than power in stick handling, contrary to what might be expected based on unilateral tasks like writing or throwing.

Footedness also plays a role in determining shooting preferences. The study found that 59.2% of participants who preferred using their right foot also preferred shooting left, while 64.3% of left-footed participants preferred shooting right. This suggests a cross-lateral preference pattern similar to handedness, though the correlation is not as strong.

Eyedness, or eye dominance, showed a weaker correlation with shooting preference. About 63.5% of participants preferred their right eye, and among these, 59.6% preferred shooting left. Conversely, 52.3% of left-eye dominant participants preferred shooting right. The study suggests that while eyedness has some influence, it is less significant compared to handedness and footedness.

The researchers also explored how preferences in non-sport bilateral tasks, such as using a broom, shovel, rake, and axe, correlate with ice-hockey stick preferences. They found high correlations between how participants held these tools and their ice-hockey stick preference. For instance, a strong preference was noted for an uncrossed stance when using tools like a broom, rake, or shovel, indicating that these tasks can predict ice-hockey stick preference to some extent.

Charles-Anthony Dubeau, a researcher from Université Laval, said: “Our study initially came from a personal interrogation regarding the evolution of the lateral proportions in ice hockey – even if they still were the minority, right-side shooters seemed way more common nowadays than in the previous eras.

“However, investigating that statement only highlighted the odd case of ice hockey’s laterality and the lack of knowledge on the matter. We notably realised that no one had investigated how ice hockey’s lateral preference was determined in one’s development.”

Interestingly, the study contrasts its findings with previous research, which showed different patterns of hand preference and stick handling in a German sample. The current study’s authors suggest that cultural factors and familiarity with ice hockey might explain these discrepancies. For instance, the prevalence of left-shooting players in Canadian ice hockey, as opposed to German participants, who showed a higher preference for shooting right, points to environmental and cultural influences on lateral preferences.

Dubeau further commented on the complexity of lateral preferences: “Handedness proportions didn’t explain ice hockey’s lateral proportions as well as in other sports, and the other sports themselves all had intrinsic factors to them that, at least partly, explained their lateral preference proportions. Thus, even if we could calculate the proportion of left- and right-side shooters in ice hockey’s history, we could only speculate to explain them. Naturally, our interest then shifted to understanding how one’s lateral preference is determined, and the manuscript you read is a starting point for this body of research.”

The study’s findings have practical implications for ice-hockey coaching and talent identification. Understanding a player’s lateral preferences can help coaches optimise their training and positioning strategies. For example, players with a cross-lateral preference may excel in roles requiring precise stick handling and control, while those with a same-lateral preference might be better suited for roles demanding powerful shots.

In addition, it was the first of a small number of articles on ice hockey’s laterality that our research group published, so if you look us up, you should find other studies on the subject. Dubeau reflected on the future of this field of study: “This topic is probably too experimental to be pursued full-time. The reason literature on the topic was so scarce was certainly due to people being perfectly fine holding and handling an ice hockey stick without understanding its mechanism.”

The insights gained from this study could be applied to other sports and activities that require bimanual coordination, providing a broader understanding of how lateral preferences impact performance. “For this reason, this part of our research programme has been shelved for the time being. Nonetheless, we do believe that pursuing research on the topic could be useful, and it would garner attention and raise curiosity on the matter,” Dubeau said.

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