About Reaction Time

Reaction time is the ability to respond quickly to a stimulus. It important in many sports and day to day activities, though it is not often measured. Simple reaction time is the time taken between a stimulus and movement e.g., sprint start. Such simple reaction time depends on nerve connections and signal pathways, is 'hard wired' in your body composition and cannot be improved. Another type of reaction time, choice reaction time, is the time taken between stimulus and action which requires a choice. Choice reaction time can be improved by practice and training.

Performers receive stimuli from the eyes (position of other players, the ball etc), the ears (calling from players, the referee, even spectators), and kinesthetic sense (the performer's position, their options etc). Skilled players reduce reaction time by selecting the most important information, and by anticipating other players actions and the path of the ball quickly.

Testing Reaction Time

As with all sports fitness testing, specificity is very important, and if you were to seriously want to measure an athlete's reaction time in a certain sport, you would want a test that is more specific to the visual cues and muscle reactions that are encountered during that sport. See a list of reaction time tests.

What is it measuring?

For example, in the click reaction time test, when you see the screen color change, the signal for the change in color travels from your eye along the optic nerve to be registered in your brain, from which a message is sent to another part of your brain that controls your muscles. Your brain must then send a signal along the nerves to your muscles, telling them to depress the mouse button. Signals travel fast along each of the nerve pathways required, however the majority of the reaction time is taken up at the junction points in between the different nerves involved, and between the nerves and the muscles at your fingers.

However, if you compare your results of the click reaction time to the 'make your own' test, you may notice that you get quite different scores, even though the tests are measuring similar abilities. The slight differences between the tests and the computer software may explain the different results you will get.

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