How finger ratio points to top rugby performance
Swansea University researchers have devised a simple measure of finger ratio in males to help predict performance in elite rugby players.
Academics from the University’s Department of Psychology and the Sport and Exercise Research Centre, in partnership with the Ospreys Rugby Union Club, have examined the relationship between the relative length of the second and fourth fingers and performance in top rugby players.
A low second finger to fourth finger ratio (longer ring finger than index finger) has been reported to correlate with high performance in sport and is used as a biomarker for achievement in various sports, athletic disciplines and cardiovascular disease. However it has not previously been used within rugby.
(This hand shows a typical digit ratio pattern found in many international-level athletes and sportsmen. Note – the ring finger is markedly longer than the index finger, indicating the subject was exposed to very high testosterone before birth.)
John Manning, Honorary Professor of Psychology in Swansea University’s College of Human and Health Sciences, led the research entitled ‘Digit ratio (2D:4D) and performance in elite rugby players’, which has been published in the Journal of Sports Science.
He said: “This is the first time that the relationship between this ratio and performance in elite rugby players has been examined. It links a straightforward measure in the fingers to rugby performance, for example the number of caps for Wales and number of tries scored.
“Performance was measured in 44 players - 28 forwards and 16 backs - from the 2008-2009 Ospreys squad and age-matched controls, by using an age adjusted number of international appearances (caps) for Wales, a comparison of coaches’ first choice league team with others and the number of tries scored by backs in club matches."
Results revealed that compared with the control test sample of UK males, players were larger and had a lower second to fourth finger ratio for the right and left hand. With regard to number of caps, players with a low second finger to fourth finger ratio in their right hand and a low right second finger to fourth finger ratio compared with their left (right - left second finger to fourth finger ratio difference) had high numbers of caps.
First-choice players did not differ significantly from second-choice players in their second finger to fourth finger ratio, but they did have a lower right - left second finger to fourth finger ratio difference than second-choice players.
A low right second finger to fourth finger ratio and low right - left second finger to fourth finger ratio differences were significantly linked with large numbers of tries.
“The research has shown that that a low right second finger to fourth finger ratio and low right – left second finger to fourth finger ratio difference are predictors of high rugby performance,” Professor Manning added.
“It is thought that these relationships may be linked with high prenatal testosterone. However, further work is required to identify the trait that covaries with second finger to fourth finger ratios, high prenatal testosterone and rugby performance.”
Dr Liam Kilduff, Senior Lecturer in Swansea University’s College of Engineering, who co-authored the paper with Professor Manning said: “This is a great example of the cross disciplinary research we pride ourselves on here at Swansea University.
“We have a number of studies planned which will hopefully help us to unpick exactly what physiological traits finger ratio is predicting.”
The full article can be viewed at http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all?content=10.1080/02640414.2010.510143
For more information on the University’s Psychology Department visit http://www.swan.ac.uk/human_sciences/Psychology/
For more information on the Sport and Exercise Research Centre visit http://www.swansea.ac.uk/engineering/SportsScience/