Monday, January 13, 2014

Symmetrical Knees The Secret To Usain Bolt's Success?

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Is having symmetrical knees the secret to to sprint king Usain Bolt's speed? A new study by a group of British researchers seem to think so.

Well, before you stop reading here and think that the reason Bolt won six Olympic gold medals just because his knees are symmetrical. I think the answer is no. But more on that later.

Back to the published study. This group of researchers found that Jamaican children with the most symmetrical knees in their study were the most likely to become the best sprinters when they became adults. They also found that Jamaican children were much more symmetrical in the legs (especially knees) in comparison to European kids. This symmetry predicted their willingness to sprint and their sprinting times when they were adults.

This childhood symmetry project started in 1996 involving 288 primary school children (average age of 8) when the study started. The children were retested in 2010 when they were in their early twenties. Other traits like ear height, finger length, knee and ankle width, foot length, wrist and elbow width were also studied.

Now if I suggested that Michael Jordan is the best ever basketball player in the NBA because he is 1.98m tall wouldn't you say that there are many other taller players who are in the NBA (or aren't even playing in the NBA) but not as good as Jordan? Personally, I feel one trait (symmetrical knees) does not a champion make (the way Yoda will say it).

The Independent (English newspaper) is probably too quick to jump on the findings. I personally think that symmetrical knees in Jamaicans can be a contributing factor to their superior sprint performance, but not the only reason. The need to find these talented sprinters, to develop and then manage them and their training, (and other reasons) are other possible contributing factors why Usain Bolt and the other Jamaicans are currently superior sprinters (and not because they have symmetrical knees).


Trivers R, Palestis BD and Manning JT. (2013). The Symmentry Of Children's Knees Is Linked To Their Adult Sprinting Speed And Their Willingness To Sprint In A Long-term Jamaican Study. PLoS ONE 8(8) : e72244. doi : 10.1371/journal.pone.0072244.

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