The Secret of Sports: It's In The Belly Button!

Why do blacks excel at running track and whites dominate in the swimming pool? Scientists discovered the secret to why some athletes are so good at their sports: it's in their belly buttons!

What's important is not whether an athlete has an innie or an outie but where his or her navel is in relation to the rest of the body, says the study published in the International Journal of Design and Nature and Ecodynamics.

The navel is the center of gravity of the body, and given two runners or swimmers of the same height, one black and one white, "what matters is not total height but the position of the belly-button, or center of gravity," Duke University professor Andre Bejan, the lead author of the study, told AFP.

"It so happens that in the architecture of the human body of West African-origin runners, the center of gravity is significantly higher than in runners of European origin," which puts them at an advantage in sprints on the track, he said.

Conversely, the position of the belly-buttons in white athletes mean that they have longer torso and thus are usually better swimmers: Link


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In the interview posted on this page, the author mentions bellybuttons. The original article is not based on bellybuttons, it is a theoretical paper using a model of animal locomotion that explains how a higher center of gravity would increase running speed and decrease swim speed.
Blacks have a higher relative center of gravity than whites.
In top competition, blacks are faster runners and slower swimmers than whites.

So the authors use their model to explain how racial differences in running/swimming may occur.

They did not actually perform direct correlations using bellybuttons, center of gravity, running speed, or swim speed.

If different ratios of fast-twitch to slow-twitch muscle fibres is important for running than swimming, then that may be another avenue of research.

Bodyfat would help boyancy, but not horizontal swimspeed.
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@ ted

Show me an academic that doesn't employ the use of spell check when writing a paper. I also misspelled ’be’ and ‘currently’.

However I happened to have written that comment about 3 hours after having my wisdom teeth out, and I was still a bit drugged up.
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@ Splint Chesthair
sick of it as you may me, I thought that that point was particularly apt in this case. There are so many other mediating variables that may contribute to these results (many excellent examples of which were provided by the people above) over and above the position of one's bellybutton, and I am extremely sceptical that one's center of gravity lies at their bellybutton.

Don't be so quick to assume that I am a "two-bit pseudoscientist". I have 2 psychology degrees under my belt, I'm currenlty doing a masters degree, and I am pretty down with statistics and regressional analyses. I am intimately familiar with the scientific method, having conducted a number of intensive studies myself.

Don't underestimate the importance of people's tendency to imply that correlation infers causation. After all, there is a very high correlation between using suncream and drowning at the beach. Should that mean that I should conclude that one may be the cause of the other, or should I consider other possible extranious variables such as, say whether of not it is a hot day and how many people visit the beach?

@ SuperCrap
I think you raise some excellent points. Look up stereotype threat and you will find a social psychological theory that fits in quite nicely with yours.
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