Losing Athletes Nonverbally Execute More Headshakes than Winners: Study
Thu, September 29, 2022

Losing Athletes Nonverbally Execute More Headshakes than Winners: Study


Losing athletes express themselves nonverbally more strongly by moving their heads more often than winners during sport competitions, a new study has found.

The study, which appeared in the International Journal of Sports Sciences & Coaching, shares how emotions and nonverbal movement behavior are closely linked processes. However, there has been inadequate knowledge about the spontaneous nonverbal movements in response to the experience of negative and positive emotions, such as when winning or losing a sports competition.

Spontaneous head movements observed in losing athletes

Authors from the German Sport University Cologne said that losing athletes express themselves more strongly than winners, especially in tennis. Scientist Dr. Ingo Helmich explains that losers carry out nonverbal headshakes side-to-side and upwards. To come up with such conclusions, the researchers analyzed the movements of 17 professional male tennis players with the average age of 28.1 years. They observed and videotaped these athletes during their five official matchdays of the first German Tennis Bundesliga 2018 season.

Their movements were analyzed by two certified and trained evaluators using the standardized analysis system for nonverbal behavior called NEUROpsychological GESture (NEUROGES) System. The analysis system is designed for basic research on gesture and hand movement behavior and its relation to interactive, emotion, and cognitive processes.

Significance of the study

Dr. Helmich said via Medical Xpress that for the first time, the results present clear evidence of nonverbal head movements of losers and winners in sport. The NEUROGES analysis result relating to emotions is significant to possibly improve and better understand the performance of athletes during competition.

The authors likewise conclude that professional tennis athletes cannot prevent their implicit nonverbal behavior related to negative emotions when losing a game.



Strange habits of successful tennis players

While losing tennis players move their heads, particularly repetitive sideward, phasic sideward, and phasic upward, more often than winners, there are also strange habits observed among successful tennis players. One of these strange habits is the ball bounce. According to the New York Times, it is a psychological need to occupy large blocks before the tennis player serves. Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic has irked his opponents by doing this, especially before the big points. His opponent Wayne Odesnik during the French Open was so distracted that he turned his back as the bouncing continued.

Prominent sports psychologist Jim Loehr, who is also the chief executive of the Human Performance Institute, said that players have their quirks but Djokovic has his own that are just about as elongated and detailed. Aside from Djokovic, the habit of bouncing the ball more than anyone was also observed in German player Sylvia Hanika. The left-handed tennis player bounces the ball as many as 30 times. If she faults on the first, she bounces the next ball for another 30 or so times before the serve. “It’s their countdown to launch,” Loehr added.

On the other hand, Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal does kangaroo jumps in the locker room and has obsessive toweling between points. Loehr concluded that the more time a player has not doing something constructive, the more time they have to do things that enable them to drift. Better players learn by filling that time with things that will sequentially help them deal.

Tennis: the sport with the best life expectancy gains

In a 2019 study, it was also found that people who regularly play tennis have the longest life expectancy compared to people who do other activities, such as bicycling, swimming, and jogging. Tennis players live an average of 9.7 years longer than people who live a sedentary lifestyle. The researchers used the prospective population data from the Copenhagen City Heart Study, which comprised 8,577 participants.

When compared with a sedentary lifestyle, the activities that were linked with longer life expectancy were tennis (9.7 years), badminton (6.2 years), soccer (4.7 years), cycling (3.7 years), swimming (3.4 years), jogging (3.2 years), calisthenics (3.1 years), and health club (1.5 years). The more time spent on the said activity, however, did not translate to greater longevity.

Tennis is a sport that helps a person deal with physical, social, mental, and emotional challenges, which increases their capacity to deal with stress. It is a sport that is based on evaluating physics, geometry, and angles to get the best result. Off the court, the learnings can be translated into better problem-solving abilities. The sport is good for people, regardless of age. Since it requires tactical thinking and alertness, it may also generate new connections between nerves in the brain. In the same way, it may promote a lifetime of continuing brain development.



Social interaction and longevity benefit

Tennis players played only for about 1.7 hours per week while those who did health club activities, such as stair-climber, treadmill, elliptical, weightlifting, and stationary bikes, worked out for 2.5 hours per week on average. The researchers have also found that activities that involve more social interaction have the greatest longevity.  This is why the authors suggest that exercise routines should involve a play-date to improve longevity. Their study was supported by the Danish Heart Foundation and published by medical news provider MDLinx.



Male tennis players with the most “Grand Slam” tournament titles

As of June 2020, Roger Federer has won the most “Grand Slam” titles (20) in tennis. He has also been consistently ranked among the top tennis players in the ATP Rankings, according to database company Statista. Other male tennis players mentioned are Rafael Nadal (19 Grand Slam tournament titles), Novak Djokovic (17), Pete Sampras (14), Roy Emerson (12), Björn Borg (11), Rodney Laver (11), William Tilden (10), Frederick Perry (8), Andre Agassi (8), James Connors (8), Kenneth Rosewall (8), Ivan Lendl (8), Henri Cochet (8), and Max Decugis (8).

The Grand Slam tournaments or the majors are the four most important yearly tennis tournaments. They offer the most ranking points, public and media attention, prize money, and the greatest strength and size of the field.

Communicating nonverbally through body language and gesticulation is important in sports activities, regardless of the types of sports. Athletes can also interpret and send nonverbal signs to their competitors and teammates, playing a role in their success in the game.