The second to fourth digit ratio in elite and non-elite female athletes



Contests in the animal world to determine social status almost exclusively involve males, which points out that androgens may be indispensable in the development of competitive instincts. In animal studies, it has been shown that prenatal exposure to androgens may produce permanent changes toward more aggressive behavior in adulthood. Thus, there is a strong suspicion that women involved in competitive activities, such as sports, may have been exposed to high androgen levels in utero. There is strong evidence that the ratio between the second to fourth digits ratio (2D:4D ratio) correlates negatively with intrauterine androgen concentrations and could potentially be used as a marker for prenatal androgen exposure. Therefore, the purpose of our study was to test the hypothesis that women engaged in sports have lower 2D:4D ratio—a marker of high prenatal androgen exposure. We measured the 2D:4D ratios in elite and non-elite female athletes and compared them with female individuals not engaged in any sport activities. Our results showed that elite female athletes have significantly lower left hand 2D:4D ratios compared to the control group (P < 0.05). Therefore, we can speculate that low 2D:4D ratio may be a positive correlate of sports potential in females. Am. J. Hum. Biol. 17:796–800, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.