Exceeding noise levels of 100 decibels, the grunting sounds produce by some tennis players when hitting the ball are on a par with motorbikes or chainsaws. While fans react to these impressive exhalations with either annoyance or amusement, the habit has also been a source of intense debate among professionals. For instance, Serena Williams has said that she is not bothered by opponents grunting in the heat of the competition.
Grunting masks the sound
In contrast, former world number one Martina Navratilova has complain that grunting masks; so the sound of the racket striking the ball, making it unfairly harder to predict the ball’s trajectory. The question of whether this common complaint is justify has now been examine in a new study by a team of sport psychologists from Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, led by Dr. Florian Müller and Prof. Rouwen Canal Bruland.
For this study, the research team conduct a series of experiments in which experience players were show video clips of rallies from a professional tennis match. After observing players hitting the ball; so they had to work out the ball’s trajectory and indicate where it would land. Largely unnotice by participants, though; so the intensity of the grunting noises was manipulated.
Results indicate that grunting does have an effect; but not the one claim by Navratilova. There was no evidence that grunting cause a distraction effect. In spite of the suppose irritation, participants level of error in predicting where the ball would land was the same regardless of the intensity of the grunts. Instead, it was show that the louder the grunting, the further the participants assume the ball would fly.
Forcefully exhaling air activates
This reaction was observe even when the noises only be hear after the racket had made contact with the ball; so as is usual in many professional matches. They assume that players account for the physiological benefits provide by grunting; so explains Muller. Other researchers have demonstrate that forcefully exhaling air activates the abdominal muscles; so providing additional strength that enables players to hit harder, making the ball fly faster.
This possibly explains why an effect can be observe as a result of the grunting; but the ability to anticipate the ball’s trajectory remains unaffected. According to Muller and his colleagues; hence the results of the study suggest that Navratilova’s claim needs to be reconsidered. For the sport psychologists, it is also evidence that sensory impressions other than sight are of importance in sport as well; also that scientists should look at these more closely in future.
For this reason, too, they want to stay ‘on the ball’ and investigate the phenomenon further. To get closer to real-world conditions, in the next step participants will have to catch a tennis ball on the touchscreen in real time. Ultimately, the experiment could even be conduct during a real match on a tennis court as long as no one in the neighbourhood is disturb by excessively loud grunting.