The length of a girl's ring finger could be an
indicator of her future sporting potential, researchers at King's College
London said on Thursday.
In the largest study of its kind, hand
measurements of 607 female twins aged 25-79 from the UK were compared with
the women's lifetime sporting achievements.
The findings, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine,
found that women with ring
fingers longer than their index fingers had performed
better at running and associated running sports such as soccer and tennis.
In women the ring finger is commonly shorter or the same length as the
index finger, while in men the ring finger is generally longer.
The report said detection of sporting potential by examining the ratio
between the index and ring fingers "could help identify talented
individuals at a pre-competitive stage."
The reasons for the findings were unclear, said one of the report's
authors, Professor Tim Spector from at King's College, who said he was
originally sceptical about the link to sporting ability.
"Previous studies have suggested the change in finger length was due to
changes in testosterone levels
in the womb", he said.
But he said it had been found in a separate study of twins that finger
length was largely inherited, possibly explaining why sporting parents
often have sporting children.
"We found that finger length was 70 percent heritable with little
influence of the womb environment," he said.
"This suggests that genes are the main factor and that finger length is
a marker of your genes."
He said no specific candidate genes had been identified for the link
and that multiple genes were probably responsible.
Previous studies looking at the link between finger length and sporting
ability have mainly focused on men.
A study published in 2001 of 304 English professional soccer players
found they had a significantly larger ring-to-index-finger ratio than a
control group of 533 other men.