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ScienceShot: Are Home Runs All in the Cheekbones?

We rely on people's faces for information about their mood, personality, character, and … baseball prowess? Very likely, according to a new study. In men, a greater facial width-to-height ratio (a wider or broader face) is thought to be influenced by levels of testosterone at puberty. A high width-to-height ratio has been linked to the strength of hand grip, the drive to achieve, and competitiveness. Following these implications to a logical conclusion, a team of researchers wondered if men with broader faces would prove to be better baseball players. Sure enough, a study of 81 Japanese professional sluggers showed that those with wider faces had a higher rate of home runs across two consecutive seasons, according to a finding appearing online today in Biology Letters. (The hitters didn’t top the record of the legendary Sadaharu Oh of the Yomiuri Giants, pictured, who led all Japanese players in home runs 15 times.) No such link was found with other stats such as batting average, and only a slight association with runs batted in turned up in the second season. Previous studies have connected facial width-to-height ratio with sports performance, but only in Caucasians. The new finding in an Asian group suggests that the effect of facial width relative to height—even other characteristics—may cross cultural and ethnic boundaries.

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