Reaction Time in Sprinters

Reaction Time in Sprinters

Dr. GJohn Mullen Dr. John Mullen, Latest&Greatest, Training 1 Comment

Reaction Time in Sprinters

Reaction time is often gloried in the sport of swimming with minimal support, as no studies have correlated a quick reaction time with starting success.
However, in sprint events where champions are determined by hundredths of seconds, it is difficult to claim a quick reaction time is insignificant.
Reaction time the time between a “sensory stimulus and subsequent behavioral response Tonnessen 2012)”.
This study examined and analyzed reaction times of 100 m sprints (running) from world championships.
What was done
Data was collected from 1319 sprinters in the age range 16 – 47 years, from world championships. A total of 1719 reaction times formed the basis of this investigation. These athletes were split into four groups:
  • Round 1 athletes
  • Round 2 athletes
  • Semifinalists
  • Finalists
Different variables (height, weight, etc.) were obtained from each participant analysis.
There was a significant correlation between reaction time and 100 m running time for male and female. Male finalists had a substantially shorter reaction time compared to semifinalists from round 2 and round 1. The semifinalists had shorter reaction times compared to round 1 athletes.
In females, the round 1 athletes had significantly loner reaction times compared to finalists, semifinalists, and round 2 athletes. Semifinalists had a significantly shorter reaction time compared to round 2 athletes.
Males 26 – 29 years had the quickest reaction times. Females under 19 had a slower reaction time compared to those greater than 30 years old.
No correlations were noted between height.
The top 10th percentile of reaction times was approximately 0.02 s faster than the average. Males had a significantly shorter reaction time compared to females, likely due to genetics.
Practical Implication
The difference for the top 10th percentile of runners is only 0.02 seconds. In swimming, where biomechanics play a more significant role, it is likely reaction time plays even less of a role. Therefore, start entry is deemed more important for starting success. Moreover, the duration of the 100-meter run is much shorter compared to any swimming event, making 0.02 more significant.
Tønnessen E, Haugen T, Shalfawi SA. Reaction Time Aspects of Elite Sprinters In Athletics World Championships. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Jun 26. [Epub ahead of print]

Written By:

Dr. GJohn Mullen


Dr. GJohn Mullen, DPT, CSCS is a World renowned expert and speaker in sports training and rehabilitation. He received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy at USC, as well as the Josette Antonelli Division Service Scholarship, Order of the Golden Cane, and the Order of Areté. At USC, he also performed research on swimming biomechanics and lung adaptations in swimming training. Dr. GJohn has worked with multiple professional and Olympic athletes, helping them earn Olympic medals.

His dedication to research and individualization spurred him to open COR in 2011. Since 2011, Dr. GJohn has been featured in Gizmodo, Motherboard, Stack Magazine, Swimming World Magazine, Swimmer Magazine, USA Swimming, USA Triathlon, Swimming Science, and much more.

He has worked with the numerous colleges and teams regarding rehab and performance. Before his Doctoral program, Dr. GJohn swam on an athletic scholarship at Purdue University.

At Purdue, Dr. GJohn was an Academic Honorable Mention All-American and was awarded the Red Mackey Award and R. O. Papenguh Award. He also won the Purdue Undergraduate business plan and elevator pitch competition, as well as 1st prize with the Indiana Soy Bean Alliance.

Dr. GJohn was born in Centerville, Ohio and was a 24-time high school All-American Swimmer. Dr. GJohn is still a swimmer and holds a Masters Swimming World and Pacific Swimming Record.

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