Finger lengths and women’s sports potential

Can future sports stars be predicted just by looking at the length of an individual’s fingers? According to new research, led by Professor Tim Spector from the Twin Research Unit at King’s, women whose ring fingers are longer than their index fingers should achieve higher levels in sports.

The ratio of the length of the index finger to the ring finger (2d: 4d) has already been shown to be associated in males with diverse traits including cognitive ability, disease susceptibility, sexuality, sperm counts and aspects of personality. This new study is the largest one to date looking at women’s 2d: 4d ratio and sporting ability.

The research, which is published online today in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, involved examining hand radiographs of 607 female twins aged 25-79 years from the UK, and the lengths of the second and fourth fingers of each hand were measured. Participants also ranked their highest level achieved in a list of 12 sports on a questionnaire. Investigators found that the highest achieved level of participation in any sport was significantly associated with low 2d: 4d. In particular, women with longer fourth fingers than second fingers reported that they had performed better at running level and associated running sports such as soccer and tennis.

Genetic factors

‘The reasons for these findings are unclear’ , says Professor Spector. ‘Previous studies have suggested the change in finger length was due to changes in testosterone levels in the womb but we also found that finger length was 70 per cent heritable with little influence of the womb environment. This suggests that genes are the main factor and that finger length is a marker of your genes.’

The authors propose that the detection of sports potential by examining 2d: 4d may help to identify talented individuals at a pre-competitive stage, since 2d: 4d is fixed before birth and remains constant during life. However, no specific candidate genes have yet been identified for the determination of 2d: 4d and it is therefore likely that the multiple genes are responsible.

Notes to editors

The Twin Research Unit, based at St Thomas’ Hospital, has a database of 10,000 twins and studies a wide variety of diseases and traits and is always looking for more adult twin volunteers, male or female, identical or non-identical to help with their studies. To volunteer or for more information please phone: 020 7188 5555 or visit the website:www.twinsuk.ac.uk

King’s College London

King’s College London is the fourth oldest university in England with more than 13,700 undergraduates and nearly 5,600 graduate students in nine schools of study based at five London campuses. It is a member of the Russell Group: a coalition of the UK’s major research-based universities. The College has had 24 of its subject-areas awarded the highest rating of 5* and 5 for research quality, demonstrating excellence at an international level, and it has recently received an excellent result in its audit by the Quality Assurance Agency.

King’s has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, international relations, medicine and the sciences, and has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe and is home to four Medical Research Council Centres – more than any other university.

King’s is in the top group of UK universities for research earnings, with income from grants and contracts of more than £100 million, and has an annual turnover of more than £363 million.

Further information
Public Relations Office, King’s College London
Tel: 020 7848 4334
Email: pr@kcl.ac.uk

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