Reaction Time Differences in Men and Women

Men have an unfair advantage over women because of their strength and size.  That’s why the events are separated by gender, and Para-Olympians have their own games.

Because of this, we have the women’s throwing events using lighter implements.

We have the women’s hurdles at lower heights than men and with shorter spacing in the high hurdles (though I feel the Women’s 400 meter hurdles are TOO LOW and should be raised 3 inches, but that’s my opinion).

And eventually we’ll see the women’s Heptathlon change to a full 10 event decathlon in the next decade once the pole vault is a mainstream event worldwide.  I don’t see any reason why a woman cannot do a 10 event decathlon if they can pole vault.  Fair is fair.

But why are allowable reaction times the same (i.e. at 0.100 seconds) when men have a faster reaction time due to increased forces?

With a quicker reaction for men, this implies woman have a greater allowance to trigger a false start based on a recent University of Michigan research (abstract below, thanks to Jordan T. for sending this my way)

If the average elite man has a 9ms leeway before he triggers a 0.100 false start (using 109ms as a number), then the average elite woman has 21 ms leeway (based on 121ms), therefore women have 12ms advantage over the men

Perhaps the Women should have a 0.110 sec rule before it triggers a false start?  Or lower the men’s reaction time to 0.090 and keep the women’s at 0.100?

From http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0026141:

Elite sprinters offer insights into the fastest whole body auditory reaction times. When, however, is a reaction so fast that it represents a false start? Currently, a false start is awarded if an athlete increases the force on their starting block above a given threshold before 100 ms has elapsed after the starting gun. To test the hypothesis that the fastest valid reaction times of sprinters really is 100 ms and that no sex difference exists in that time, we analyzed the fastest reaction times achieved by each of the 425 male and female sprinters who competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

After power transformation of the skewed data, a fixed effects ANOVA was used to analyze the effects of sex, race, round and lane position. The lower bounds of the 95, 99 and 99.9% confidence intervals were then calculated and back transformed. The mean fastest reaction time recorded by men was significantly faster than women (p<0.001). At the 99.9% confidence level, neither men nor women can react in 100 ms, but they can react in as little as 109 ms and 121 ms, respectively.

However, that sex difference in reaction time is likely an artifact caused by using the same force threshold in women as men, and it permits a woman to false start by up to 21 ms without penalty. We estimate that female sprinters would have similar reaction times to male sprinters if the force threshold used at Beijing was lowered by 22% in order to account for their lesser muscle strength.

More articles on reaction time and the false start rule:

  1. Changing the IAAF Reaction Time Rule (Part 2)
  2. Armin Hary and the IAAF Reaction Time Rule (Part 1)
  3. Reaction Time, Usain Bolt and the Pareto 80-20 Rule
  4. How to Improve your Reaction Time

  • “If the average elite man has a 9ms leeway before he triggers a 0.100 false start (using 109ms as a number), then the average elite woman has 21 ms leeway (based on 121ms), therefore women have 12ms advantage over the men. ”

    This is not true, for women’s reaction times ARE SLOWER than mens, otherwise, the leeway would be the same as a man.

  • I can understand that this may appear unfair, but whenever women boast about their advantages, we NEVER title it as UNFAIR.