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Why Am I Left-Handed?

More than 90% of the world is right-handed. That means there are way more right-handed people than lefties. But if you're a lefty, don't feel alone in a right-handed world. Billions of people live on the globe. So there are hundreds of millions of lefties out there!

There are actually more lefties today than ever. Why? Years ago, teachers forced left-handed kids to write with their right hand. They thought that was the correct way. Back then, some people even thought there might be something wrong inside a left-handed person's brain. That's definitely not true.

Today, everyone knows that being a lefty is perfectly OK and totally natural. Left-handed people have healthy and normal brains, just like righties.

What Makes a Person Left- (or Right-) Handed?

Scientists aren't sure why some people turn out to be left-handed. But they have noticed that being left-handed runs in families. So they're pretty sure your genes, or DNA, influence whether or not you turn out a lefty.

Getting hurt can also make a person a lefty. Sometimes righties badly injure their right hand and can't use it anymore. Those kids and adults usually learn to use their left hand and become lefties. A lefty can also become right-handed if they hurt their left hand. So it works both ways.

Are Left-Handed People More Creative?

No. It's not true that lefties are always artsy. Right-handers Rembrandt and Van Gogh are two good examples. But here's how that theory began. For both righties and lefties, the brain is divided right down the middle into two sides called hemispheres. One hemisphere is on the right side of your head, and the other is on the left.

But here's the strange part: For complicated reasons, the right hemisphere controls movements on the left half of the body, which includes the left hand. And the left hemisphere controls movements on the right side.

Creative thought (writing a song, drawing a picture) happens mostly on the right side of the brain. So if you're left-handed, the theory goes that you're more likely to have a lot of creative thought going on.

But thought processes in your brain are way too complex to be limited to just one hemisphere. The two sides of your brain work together when you think. And just because you like using your left hand doesn't mean you only think with only one side of your brain.

Do You Fit in a Right-Handed World?

Some products, like scissors, are made to fit snug in your hand. Since most people are right-handed, these products are designed to be used on someone's right hand. Though some left-handed folks muddle through, many companies now produce left-handed products, including scissors, workshop tools, sports equipment, and even musical instruments.

School is one place a lefty might need some special stuff. For instance, many desks are designed for righties, leaving a lefty no place to rest his or her elbow. Be sure to tell a teacher if you need a different desk or left-handed scissors for that art project.

Handwriting can present problems since a left-handed person often will hook his or her hand around, thereby smearing the ink on the page or the chalk on the chalkboard. Here are some tips to make writing easier:

Avoid 3-ring notebooks and spiral-bound notebooks. The rings are in the wrong spot for a lefty, making it uncomfortable to write. Use loose-leaf paper or choose a notebook that's bound at the top instead of the left side.

Do your own testing to find the pen that's least likely to smear. Then, when your hand inevitably rubs across, you won't create such a mess. Better yet, use a pencil when you can.

Do Lefties Have the Upper Hand in Sports?

It's true. While left-handers face some obstacles, they enjoy a real advantage on the playing field. In baseball or softball, a left-handed hitter starts out a few steps closer to first base than one who's right-handed. That gives lefties a better chance at making it to first before getting tagged out. Batting lefty also forces the pitcher to throw the ball differently than he or she usually does since most hitters are right-handed.

In basketball and other sports, a left-handed player can more easily surprise an opponent, forcing a change in strategy. For instance, a left-handed basketball player will dribble with his or her left hand and come in for a basket from the left side. You can't use your hands when you're dribbling a soccer ball, but left-handed soccer players often outsmart their opponents because they're left-footed!

With that kind of advantage, it's no surprise that some super athletes have been lefties. They include baseball greats Babe Ruth and tennis player John McEnroe. But lefties have more than physical ability. Scientist Albert Einstein, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and cartoon character Bart Simpson are all left-handed. In other words, if you're a lefty, you're in good company!

Reviewed by: Charles B. Brill, MD
Date reviewed: May 2009

Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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