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The wins and losses of an athlete depend on skill and reflexes.
Cameron Spencer/Photodisc/Getty Images
An athlete's reaction often makes the difference between who wins a match or loses the game. If you are able to react faster than your opponent, your odds of succeeding greatly increase. While most sports require a degree of rapid reaction time, some rely more heavily on this area than others. Additionally, in many sports, a player's position may require a faster reaction time than the rest of the team. When considering these variables, there are several sports that have comparable reaction times.
Fast-Twitch and Slow-Twitch Muscles
Reaction times and reflexes are based on muscle fibers present in the body, either Type 1 or Type 2. Type 1 are slow-twitch fibers, which are less responsive and primarily used in endurance activities, such as marathon running. Type 2 muscle fibers are fast-twitch fibers that are responsible for agility and reaction. These fibers respond to short bursts of intense activity that require little or no oxygen. You primarily use Type 2 muscle fibers in anaerobic activities such as weightlifting or sprinting. Specialized training programs focus on improving reaction times of Type 2 fibers by using reaction balls and ladder drills.
Reflexes in Sprinters
Because sprinting is a high-intensity, low-duration sport, extremely rapid reaction times are required. Sprinters train to develop reflexes and get a rapid start immediately after the starting gun. Measuring reaction times in sprinters became possible with the use of force plates and some of the world's most successful sprinters were able to react to the starting gun in less than a second. One of the fastest reaction times was achieved by Canadian Bruny Surin in the 1999 World Championships' 100 meter semi-finals. He had a 0.101-second reaction, demonstrating his high-reflex capacity. Unlike other sports, sprinters train their reflexes to be in motion the moment they hear the starting signal. While this reflex is highly developed in sprinters, other sports require a variety of reflexes which are still rapid, but may not be as responsive. Sprinting involves running down a track as rapidly as possible. This sport involves competition but does not require teamwork and other interactions between athletes or significant amounts of critical thinking and decision making. Other sports such as soccer, which require player interaction and rapid decision-making skills, may result in slightly slower reaction times.
Sports -- such as badminton, tennis and table tennis -- all require rapid reflexes. Table tennis, especially, must be played with rapid reflexes due to the small playing area, the size of the ball and the rapid movements involved to win the game. In similar sports such as tennis and badminton, the speed of the ball can reach up to 200 miles per hour. In these sports, reaction times vary, but a player typically has only 0.3 seconds to react to the ball.
Soccer and Basketball
Soccer and basketball both require rapid response times which is why so many training tactics involve improving reflexes. In practices, these athletes practice passing the ball rapidly, helping to develop these reflexes and speed up reaction times. However, these sports may not be classified as ones that require the fastest reflexes since reflex requirements vary depending on positions. In a soccer match, the goalkeeper develops rapid reflexes and may have just 0.3 seconds to react to a penalty struck at 80 miles per hour from the penalty spot. Basketball players also react quickly, passing and shooting the ball as well as dealing with interference from the opposing team. As players develop their skills in any sport, their reaction time improves as reflexes develop.