OHIO JOURNAL OF SCIENCE 15
A. LUU ET AL. .
Reaction time (RT) is the time interval between a
signal and the reaction to it (Radák 2018). Response
times to specic stimuli have been shown to be
age-dependent (improving from ages 3 to 15, not
changing signicantly to age 30, and deteriorating
thereafter) (Bucsuházy and Semela 2017), but not
gender-dependent (Woods et al. 2015) or IQ-
dependent (Aktas 2019). Rate of eye movement in
response to visual stimuli is directly proportional
to hand-eye coordination (Dean et al. 2011).
RT can be measured by several methods,
including the ruler drop test (Latorre-Roman et
al. 2018), measuring reaction to a visual stimulus
(Bucsuházy and Semela 2017), a sound stimulus
(Kemp 1984), or a tactile stimulus (Hernández et
al. 2005); test protocols will be elucidated in the
Esport competitors, gamers who play genres
that are considered action esport games (such
as rst-person shooter (FPS) and massive online
battle arena (MOBA) games) had faster RTs on
the trail-making (visual/cognitive) test than those
Reaction Times for Esport Competitors and Traditional Physical
Athletes are Faster than Noncompetitive Peers
ANH LUU, AVORY WINANS, REMA SUNIGA, and VICKI A. MOTZ 1, Ohio Northern University, Ada, OH, USA.
ABSTRACT. Reaction time (RT), time to respond to a stimulus, has been shown to be faster among traditional
physical athletes and esport competitors than nonathletes/noncompetitors; however, no comparison has been
made between traditional physical athletes and esport competitors. This research examined RTs of healthy 18
to 22 year-old college football athletes, esport competitors, and a control group (n = 12 for each group). RT (ms)
to visual (color cue test, ruler drop test), auditory (sound cue test), and tactile stimuli (probe grabbing test) was
collected in duplicate. RTs for individual tests and calculated composite RTs were compared between groups
by ANOVA and post hoc t-tests. RTs to auditory stimuli were signicantly slower than to visual or tactile stimuli
(F(140, 3) = 286.5, p = 0.0000). Esport competitors signicantly outperformed noncompetitive controls in probe
grabbing ( p = 0.0175) and ruler drop tests ( p = 0.0016). Football players had similar faster RTs in probe grabbing
( p = 0.0002) and ruler drop tests ( p = 0.0013) compared to controls. Esport competitors also had signicantly
faster RTs in the color cue test than controls ( p = 0.05). Although esport competitors and football athletes had
faster composite RTs than controls ( p = 0.0042 and p = 0.0104, respectively), RTs between esport competitors
and football athletes were not signicantly dierent. A trend was seen in that esport competitors had faster
RTs than football athletes in all tests except probe grabbing. Involvement in esports or football is positively
correlated with faster RT, although it is not demonstrated whether play improves RT or those with inherently
faster RTs tend to excel in activities requiring rapid response.
Publication Date: April 2021 https://doi.org/10.18061/ojs.v121i2.7677 OHIO J SCI 121(2):15-20
without a gaming background (Kowal et al. 2018).
Furthermore, players of these types of competitive
action video games had quicker RTs in auditory
and visual perceptual decision making tasks than
players without that exposure (Green et al. 2010).
Gozli et al. (2014) found that serious gamers (who
played video games 2 hours per day, 3 to 4 days
per week, for a minimum of 6 months) held an
advantage in sensorimotor learning and hand-eye
coordination over nongamers. RT is important
for esport competitors as the average professional
conducts 500 to 600 actions per minute (LeJacq
2013). In addition, those who participated in
video games located visual objects or features on a
screen faster, and demonstrated a greater ability in
visual mapping, than those who did not play video
games (Castel et al. 2005). Experienced gamers
had faster RTs to a ashed visual stimulation test,
without decreases in accuracy of performance,
compared to novice players (Dye et al. 2009). ese
studies suggest that gaming experience is positively
correlated with RT.
Address correspondence to Vicki A. Motz, Ohio Northern
University, 525 South Main St., Ada, OH 45801, USA
© 2021 Luu et al. is article is published under a
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
16 VOL. 121(2)
Within traditional athletes, RTs reported in
dierent studies, and under dierent conditions,
varied. In 483 sprinters, those with quicker RTs
performed better in a 60 m sprint than those who
had slower RTs (where RT was dened as the time
dierence between the start signal and the moment
the athlete exerted pressure on the starting block)
(Gürses and Kami 2019). Greater involvement in
traditional physical sports activities improved an
individual’s hand-eye RT and anticipation time
responses to LED light cues (Kuan et al. 2018).
Interestingly, tennis players displayed faster RTs
than both sedentary participants and swimmers
when subjected to visual-cue and button-pressing
testing (Wang et al. 2013). Even within the same
sport, response to dierent stimuli varied. National
Collegiate Athletic Association Division I male
soccer players responded faster to a visual command
(visible movement 10 m away) than an auditory
one (sound command “Go”) (Spierer et al. 2011).
us, participation in competitive physical sports
is associated with improved RTs; especially to visual
Little is known about the relative RTs of
traditional physical athletes in comparison to esport
competitors. is study examined the RTs of college
football players (as representatives of traditional
physical athletes) and esport competitors. Future
studies would then determine whether RTs improve
with training, and whether there is a discernible
dierence in decrease in RTs for competitors
training in esports vs. traditional sports. is may
lead to training regimens directly associated with
improving RT. It was hypothesized that both football
players and esport competitors would have faster
RTs in visual, auditory, and tactile assessments of
RT than the nonactive control groupwith esport
competitors having the fastest composite RTs (see
methods for determination of composite RT).
METHODS AND MATERIALS
For this IRB-approved study, 3 groups of
healthy male college students (n = 12 per group)
were studied: (1) players on the Ohio Northern
University football team (NCAA Division III) with
at least 2 years of football experience, (2) esport team
members at the same college with at least 2 years
of gaming experienceranked between gold and
diamond, and (3) a control student group (those who
perform little to no physical activity or competitive
gaming activity in their daily lives). Although gender
has not been observed to inuence RT (Woods
et al. 2015), this study involved only males. No
participant belonged to more than 1 group or had
any neurological conditions. Participants were
asked to abstain from alcohol, coee, and energy
drinks for 24 hours prior to testing. RTs to visual
(color cue test and ruler drop test), auditory (sound
cue test), and tactile (probe grabbing test) stimuli
were tested in random order. Testing occurred in
the esport oce at Ohio Northern University, a
4-year regional college located in the Midwest of the
United States. For electronic-based tests, a 13-inch
2017 model MacBook Pro® was utilized. Each test
was conducted twice using the same device across
all participants, and scores were averaged.
Visual Testing : Visual testing consisted of a
computer generated color cue test (RTT 2020)
and the ruler drop test. In the color cue test, the
participant looked at the computer screen and clicked
the computer mouse as fast as he could when the
screen switched from red to green. RT was recorded
in milliseconds. In the ruler drop test, the participant
placed his dominant arm on the table with their hand
over the edge of the table in an open “c” position;
the meter stick was held at the midpoint between
his thumb and ngertips. As soon as the researcher
(sitting opposite to the participant) dropped the
ruler, the participant grabbed the meter stick. e
vertical distance that the meter stick travelled in
centimeters was recorded, then converted into RT
(ms) based on the acceleration due to gravity of a free
falling object (9.8 m/s
) provided by the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA 2020):
RT in ms = 1000 · √2 · (distance in cm/100/9.8) .
Sound Cue: Auditory testing utilized a
computer generated test (TYRSS 2020) which was
administered by having the participant (with eyes
closed) press the spacebar on the testing laptop as
soon as he heard a sound from the computer. RT in
milliseconds was recorded. Loudness and duration
of the signal were consistent across subjects.
Tactile testing consisted of
a novel RT test developed by the authors of this
study. e researcher hovered a probe (a Dell
a metallic cylinder approximately 15 cm long
by 0.75 cm in diameter and weighing 20 g ) above
the participant’s open and relaxed dominant hand
OHIO JOURNAL OF SCIENCE 17
A. LUU ET AL. .
(the participant had his eyes closed); the participant
clenched his st over the probe the moment he
felt the probe touch his hand. is process was
recorded with a camera at the rate of 60-frames
per second, and RT was measured by analyzing the
video frames of the action using Avidemux video
editing software (Avidemux 2020). RT was recorded
in milliseconds starting from when the probe rst
touched the participant’s hand and ending when
the participant’s ngers touched his palm.
All tests were conducted in duplicate and the
average of the 2 scores was recorded as the participant
score. A composite score (the mean of the 4 tests)
was calculated. ANOVA testing was performed for
each RT test as well as for the composite scores. Post
hoc t-tests were performed to determine signicant
dierences between group RTs.
All participants were very consistent in their
responses. In the color cue test (Fig. 1A), mean
RT of esport competitors (269.83 ± 23.46 ms)
was signicantly lower than the control group
(290.83 ± 36.50 ms), indicating faster RTs. But, RT
of esport competitors did not dier signicantly
from the football players (276.50 ± 28.02 ms).
In the ruler drop test (Fig. 1B), RT of esport
competitors (174.58 ± 26.14 ms) and football
players (186.94 ± 20.30 ms) was significantly
faster than the control group (223.47 ± 31.11 ms),
again, football and esport were not signicantly
dierent from each other. In the probe grabbing
test (Fig. 1C), esport competitors (202.84 ± 42.91
ms) and football players (189.08 ± 28.21 ms) had
signicantly faster RTs than the control group
(248.08 ± 55 ms). In the sound cue test (Fig. 1D),
there was no evidence for a dierence between
FIGURE 1. Comparison of mean RTs (ms) of controls (CT), football players (FP), and esport competitors (EC) (n = 12 each group).
Color cue test. Asterisks indicate signicant dierences at p = 0.05 between EC and CT. (B) Ruler drop test. Asterisks indicate
signicant dierences at p = 0.0002 between EC/FP and CT. (C) Probe grabbing test. Asterisks indicate signicant dierences at
p = 0.0175 between EC/FP and CT. (D) Sound cue test. No signicant dierences were observed between EC and FP in any test.
18 VOL. 121(2)
esport competitors (429.87 ± 50.94 ms), football
players (455.33 ± 37.78 ms), and the control group
(461.44 ± 51.19 ms).
Overall, esport competitors had the fastest mean
composite RT (269.28 ± 27.02 ms), followed by
football players (276.96 ± 17.49 ms) (Fig. 2). e
control group (305.96 ± 30.5 ms) had the slowest
RT. No signicant dierence was found between
esport competitors and football players.
A signicant dierence was observed in RTs
between the 4 tests, with the sound cue test yielding
the slowest mean RT (Fig. 3).
RTs of esport competitors and football players
were not signicantly dierent, but they both
had signicantly faster RTs than controls in all
but the sound cue test. Involvement in esports
or football is associated with faster RTs than
nonparticipants, although a causative relationship
was not demonstrated in this study.
e signicantly faster RTs of esport competitors
over the controls in the color cue test supported the
ndings of Castel et al. (2005), who found that gamers
had faster RT to visual stimuli than nongamers.
Green et al. (2010) also found faster RTs in esport
competitors, using methodology which integrated
decision making (not just simple button pressing) in
response to stimuli. eir interpretation was that the
decreased RTs in gamers playing action games was
correlated to feedforward processing. Football players
trended toward faster RTs than controls; consistent
with the ndings of Lesiakowski et al. (2017) that
traditional physical athletes had signicantly faster
RTs in button pressing to a visual cue.
Feedforward processing may also explain why
both esport competitors and football players had
faster RTs than controls in the ruler drop test. Better
hand-eye coordination in response to visual stimuli
could possibly be explained by the observation of
Mack and Ilg (2014) on their study of gamers:
that competitors exhibited faster saccadic peak
velocity (eye movement between xation points)
and saccadic RT than noncompetitors. Faster eye
movement would give the competitors an advantage
responding to a moving visual stimulus, such as a
ruler falling. Potentially, video recordings of the
ruler drop test and correlated recordings of eye
movement might be needed to validate this point.
Probe grabbing was not, however, signicantly
different between football players and esport
competitors. Test analysis could be improved by using
a higher quality video recording device that could
capture at frame rates higher than 60 per second.
Although the RTs between esport competitors
and football players were not signicantly dierent,
a trend was seen in that esport competitors had
faster RTs than football athletes in all tests except
probe grabbing. is trend suggests that dierent
training experiences and activity involvement might
inuence RT to a specic stimulus.
Whereas Hernández et al. (2005) found no evidence
of dierent RTs to dierent sensory modalities, RTs
in the current study were modality-dependent.
Furthermore, in the current study, the auditory
based test produced slower RTs than visual based
tests, similar to the ndings of Spierer et al. (2011)
in which soccer players reacted to visual signals faster
than to auditory commands. However, these results
contradicted a study of nonathletes
FIGURE 2. Mean composite RTs (ms) of the control group,
football players, and esport competitors (n = 12 each group).
Asterisks indicate signicant dierences between esport
competitors and controls ( p = 0.0025), and between football
players and controls ( p = 0.0046).
FIGURE 3. RTs (ms) for the 4 tests. Asterisks indicate signicant
dierences by ANOVA. F(140, 3) = 286.5, p = 0.0000.
OHIO JOURNAL OF SCIENCE 19
A. LUU ET AL. .
Although both esport competitors and football
players had faster RTs than the controls, the
hypothesis that esport competitors had faster
composite RTs than football players was not
conrmedbut a supportive trend was evident. is
study tested for a positive relationship, but not the
causative relationship, between activity involvement
and RT. Testing of pre-trained competitors, followed
by training and post-training testing, would be
needed to ascertain whether activity involvement
improved RT or whether fast inherent RT made
participants better gamers or athletes. Faster RT may
improve safety by facilitating protective maneuvers
such as in contact sports, driving, or piloting.
As the world becomes more virtually oriented,
manipulation of computer peripherals, and the
training evinced by repeated use of programs such
as competitive video games, may prove benecial
to those whose careers require rapid response
(e.g., in rewall protection and cybersecurity, or
even technical directors in television studios).
Furthermore, those who micromanipulate, such as
surgeons performing computer aided techniques,
may benet from the hand-eye coordination
associated with competitors in this study.
We thank the Department of Biological and Allied
Health Sciences of Ohio Northern University for
sponsoring this study, Coach Troy Chiefari for
providing us access to the esport lounge as the
testing room, Coach Dean Paul for helping with
recruitment of football athletes, and Jessica Haynie
for her contribution to project design.
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