Wednesday, October 6, 2010

On-Court Grunting: Here Comes the Science

In a past blog I noted the aggressive grunting by top female tennis pros, the likes of which can be quite impressive indeed. Male tennis players are not nearly so loud, but they do their fair share of grunting too. My point was that I thought that squash players should be allowed a grunt or two -- Hey, it's a tough game! -- and that our sport's obsession with insisting that a squash court is a no-grunting zone is a little too old-school for my taste. It's also not good for fans, who want confirmation that their favorite pro is out on court working hard.

Ah, and now the science..... Well, some intrepid psychologists got together and tested whether on-court grunting might have a negative impact on the opponent's game. The study (here) was published in the Public Library of Science ONE, an online, open-access journal. Their main finding is this: "When an additional sound occurs at the same time as when the ball is struck, participants are significantly slower (21–33 ms) and make significantly more decision errors (3–4%) regarding the direction of the ball both for easy and hard decisions alike."

Now, in tennis some of the louder yellers bellow their grunts at 100 decibels or more; in a confined squash court, that would be insanity. So we need to have these same researchers look at squash and quantify the degree at which a grunt goes from an acceptable audible pronouncement to an aggressive and unfair violation. I await the results.....  

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