The reasoning is fairly simple, that such an activity would activate the right hemisphere of the brain "and reduce the likelihood of the athlete's choking under pressure." Studies were done with soccer and badminton players and judo experts. Research has shown that the right hemisphere controls movements of the left side of the body, and the left hemisphere controls the right side.
Another finding isn't a new one: Athletes need to find a way to shut down their brains.
"Rumination can interfere with concentration and performance of motor tasks. Athletes usually perform better when they trust their bodies rather than thinking too much about their own actions or what their coaches told them during practice," Beckmann said in the study summary. "While it may seem counterintuitive, consciously trying to keep one's balance is likely to produce imbalance, as was seen in some subpar performances by gymnasts during the Olympics in London."
The finding on clenching could have ramifications outside sports, Beckmann said, explaining that elderly people who are afraid of falling often focus too much on their movements, "so righthanded elderly people may be able to improve their balance by clenching their left hand before walking or climbing stairs."
The best part about the study: It didn't try to deal with lefthanders. The authors said, "Some relationships between different parts of the brain aren't as well understood for lefthanded people."
Contact Mike Jensen
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