Relative age effect and left-handedness in world class water polo male and female players
Most studies of the relative age effect (RAE) refer to popular sports. In contrast, we examined to what extent the RAE is present in elite water polo players, as well as the association between handedness and RAE. For these purposes, laterality, anthropometry, month of birth, performance and playing position of participants in the 2011, 2013 and 2015 World Championships (623 women, 622 men) were analised. No RAE was observed in the total sample. However, the proportion of male left-handed field players born in the first quarter (11%) was lower than those born in the second (35.3%) and fourth quarter (29.4%). Regarding the overall laterality, the amount of left handed players was similar to the general population (10%). Nevertheless, there was a larger amount of left-handed wings than expected both in men (23.7%) and women (34.4%). Left-handed male players performed more shots, shots/minute and also scored more goals than right-handed players. Women left-handed players were younger and they performed more shots/minute. There is no RAE in elite male and female water polo players. However, laterality could be a possible moderator of the RAE particularly in left handed players, which should be taken into account in future studies.
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