Monday, July 30, 2012

Who are you calling goofy?!

It's well known that the vast majority of people are right-handed. I always assumed that about the same amount were right-footed as well. In skateboarding, however, skating with the right foot forward is called a 'goofy' stance, while skating with the left foot forward is called a 'natural' stance. Does this suggest that the left foot is dominant in most people - or at least among skateboarders?   

              Approx. 90% of people are
Statistically, some 90 percent of adults use their right hand for writing and two-thirds favor the right hand for most activities requiring coordination and skill. Most people also have a preferred eye, ear, and foot, though the statistics are significantly less polarized. For example, one study that showed 72% of people to be strongly right-handed and 5.3% to be strongly left-handed also found only 46% to be strongly right-footed and only 3.9% to be strongly left-footed.

Only 46% of people are strongly
Footedness is visible in peoples' first step forward, where about 56% step forward with the right foot, 22% favour the left, and the remaining 22% step forward with either foot. Similarly, in a 100 metre sprint, most runners take off on their left foot, with the right foot making the first stride forwards. However, research also indicates that the left foot and leg are the stronger in about 90% of the population. How is that the case?

Since most people are right-hand/foot dominant, using the right for skillful movements, the left leg and foot serve as supports, bearing the body's weight and maintaining its stability. Hence, in right-handers, the left leg is usually the stronger. Hence, the vast majority of high jumpers and basketball players leap off the left foot to propel themselves into the air.

Thus, either leg can be viewed as stronger. The right leg is quicker and more dexterous, the left, more powerful and stable. In fact, their relationship is complimentary and circular: if the left leg is more stable, it offers the right leg more opportunity to develop finer motor skills. On the other hand, because the right is more dexterous, the left becomes stronger and more stable in order to support the  right - the good old 'chicken or the egg' conundrum.

Based on the above, two differences emerge between hand and foot dominance:

1) Statistically, there are significantly less right-footers than right-handers, and dramatically less strong right-footers than strong right-handers.

2) Whereas the left hand of right-handed people is typically both weaker and less co-ordinated than the right, in the vast majority of right-footed people, the left leg is still the stronger and more stable of the legs, albeit the less co-ordinated.

This helped me make some sense of why there appeared to be equal numbers of  'natural' and 'goofy' stance skateboarders. However, it only confused me all the more as to why right-footed skaters are called 'goofy'. Fortunately, I stumbled on an article which explained that people who surf or skate with their right foot forward are called 'Goofy' after the Disney cartoon character who is depicted as surfing with his right foot forward.

This brought me some relief:
I'd prefer to be called Goofy rather than goofy.

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