Perceptual and Motor Performance of Combat-Sport Athletes Differs According to Specific Demands of the Discipline

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Abstract

The specific demands of a combat-sport discipline may be reflected in the perceptual–motor performance of its athletes. Taekwondo, which emphasizes kicking, might require faster perceptual processing to compensate for longer latencies to initiate lower-limb movements and to give rapid visual feedback for dynamic postural control, while Karate, which emphasizes both striking with the hands and kicking, might require exceptional eye–hand coordination and fast perceptual processing. In samples of 38 Taekwondo athletes (16 females, 22 males; mean age = 19.9 years, SD = 1.2), 24 Karate athletes (9 females, 15 males; mean age = 18.9 years, SD = 0.9), and 35 Nonathletes (20 females, 15 males; mean age = 20.6 years, SD = 1.5), we measured eye–hand coordination with the Finger–Nose–Finger task, and both perceptual-processing speed and attentional control with the Covert Orienting of Visual Attention (COVAT) task. Eye–hand coordination was significantly better for Karate athletes than for Taekwondo athletes and Nonathletes, but reaction times for the upper extremities in the COVAT task—indicative of perceptual-processing speed—were faster for Taekwondo athletes than for Karate athletes and Nonathletes. In addition, we found no significant difference among groups in attentional control, as indexed by the reaction-time cost of an invalid cue in the COVAT task. The results suggest that athletes in different combat sports exhibit distinct profiles of perceptual–motor performance.

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