What is Lateral Dominance?
Have you ever watched a soccer player or basketball player choosing to control the ball with one side of their body more than the other? This is known as lateral dominance and can play a big part in an athlete's performance such as setting up for a free kick situation in soccer. However, it can also be a hinderance if an athlete cannot use skills on both sides of the body, for example an athlete's inability to perform a cross-over and drive either side towards the hoop because the defender is blocking them on their preferential side and exposing a weakness in their game.
It is true that most athletes are more proficient with one side of their body than the other, and this lateral dominance does begin to develop from early childhood. As children grow, they naturally become increasingly aware of their right versus their left side and develop motor patterns of dominance through movement. This could be a preference of hand when eating, but develops into a preference of hand when shooting a basketball, and so on. Lateral dominance can be reduced and/or mitigated through proper training programs, one’s ability to overcome this preference can lead to enhanced performance.
Research studies suggest that children develop an increased awareness of bilateral movement between the ages of six to nine years. Therefore, the goal of training at this stage is to focus on non-dominant skills in order to enhance efficiency and stability of the body and movement patterns.
Why Address Lateral Dominance?
In multi-directional sports, such as soccer or basketball, the athlete who can move both extremities with equal proficiency gains an advantage over the athlete who cannot.
If an athlete progresses through their career using only their dominant side, they not only create weakness in their game performance, but also run the risk of overuse. This in turn can lead to structural or functional imbalances and the potential for consequential injuries.
It is often the non-dominant side that plays a role in deceleration and stabilization. An example of this is a soccer player trying to move into position so that they can strike the ball with the dominant leg; the non-dominant leg slows the body down, and stabilizes it in order for the player to strike with the dominant foot. If their non-dominant is lacking, it can negatively affect the performance of dominant side performance.
Are you finding the rhealm of youth sport challenging to navigate as a parent or guardian? Take a peak at one of our recent blog posts - 8 TIPS TO BEING A GREAT SPORT PARENT.
Jason Varghese, B.SC. KIN, CAT(C)
Certified Athletic Therapist + Certified Kinesiologist