Just found this on a sportsmed site:
Judo, better than dance, develops sensorimotor adaptabilities involved
in balance control
Philippe Perrin et al.
Gait & Posture (2002) April 15(2):187-194
Objectives: Training allows sportsmen to acquire new balance control
abilities, possibly differing according to the discipline practised. We
compared, by means of static and dynamic posturographic tests, the
postural skills of high-level judoists, professional dancers and
controls, in order to determine whether these sports improved postural
control. Results: With eyes open, judoists and dancers performed better
than controls, indicating a positive effect of training on sensorimotor
adaptabilities. Yet, with eyes closed, only judoists retained a
significantly better stance. Conclusions: These data indicate that the
practice of a high-skill activity involving proprioceptive afferences
especially improves both performance and balance control.
In this study, comparing the balance control of highly skilled judoists,
dancers and controls, we show that only judoists were able to maintain a
better balance control than controls in all circumstances, i.e., with or
without sensory deprivation (eyes closure) or external perturbation
(movement of the support). The good results of these sportsmen both in
static and dynamic tests confirm the hypothesis formulated in several
studies of a redistribution of postural control processing developed by
Judo practice [3, 4 and 15].
Given the absence of differences between sexes in balance regulation in
our young control population, we hypothesised that the differences
observed between the three groups tested were not related to sex but to
sport practice. This hypothesis of absence of sex-effect is sustained by
the part of the data of Kollegger et al.  concerning the same range
of age (21¯35 years) as ours. Ekdalh et al.  evidenced better
standing balance in women than in men, but within a population including
older subjects (20¯64 years old) than our sample. These results suggest
the importance of relating the test-data not only to sex but also to age.
The use of a particular sensorimotor strategy, implied in the regulation
of static and dynamic balance, would depend on the choice of sensory
cues (visual, vestibular or proprioceptive) privileged to detect
divergences between the posture planned and that really adopted. This
choice is influenced by prior experiences [30 and 31].
Our results also confirm that Judo or Ballet dancing learning and
training, respectively practised barefooted or with special Ballet
shoes, tend to improve orthostatic balance control in EO condition. In
both cases, the foot constitutes a full organ of balance control in a
context involving both external information (position relative to the
ground) and internal constraints (sense of position) [32 and 33]. As
suggested by Bessou et al.  and Kavounoudias et al. ,
superficial plantar mechanoreceptors provide the CNS with information
relative to the position of the body with respect to the vertical
reference , which relies on gravitationalforces, reaction forces
from the supporting surface and shear forces. This postural regulative
function of the plantar sole therefore allows sportsmen to perform
better than controls in EO condition, suggesting that proprioception
plays a major role in maintaining a stable upright stance [3, 9, 15 and
36]. With eyes closed, dancers display the worst balance control. This
could be due to the fact that training in Classical Ballet develops
specific modalities of balance, which are not transferable to posture
control in our test situations .
Our results are in accordance with those of Golomer et al. 
indicating that ballet dancers were more dependent than acrobats on
visual inputs for the regulation of postural control but differing from
those indicating that they were less dependent than untrained subjects,
both for females  and for males . Dance training strengthens the
accuracy of proprioceptive inputs, in a lower way than in judo and
acrobatics, but shifts with difficulty sensorimotor dominance from
vision to proprioception, according to our results. Dancers do not
efficiently compensate visual suppression, because this input is not
used in their practice to solve the task, but to take landmarks .
The direction of the gaze is important for artistic expression and also
to perceive the surrounding. In dance, during high-speed rotations, body
rotations are regular while those of the head occur in fits and starts,
with short periods of fixation on an environmental target at each turn.
Moreover, gaze fixation allows to avoid post rotatory nystagmus [38 and
In this study, the combination of closed eyes and a moving support in
dynamic tests are two new situations unusual in Dance. The vestibular
capacities to decode new somesthetic solicititation would appear not to
efficiently compensate the simple loss of visual cues, which is
consistent with data from Pailhous and Bonnard . By contrast, the
good performance of judoists in all experimental conditions, suggests a
low reliance on visual inputs for balance control in this discipline.
Similar results were obtained by Hain et al.  in Tai Chi.
The difference of balance modalities involved in Judo and Dance likely
relies on the very different training and practice of these two sports.
Dancers train for long hours in a very stable environment (in front of a
mirror, holding a ramp), then perform freely but in an unmoving space
(either in the training room or on stage). They voluntarily generate
their own imbalance during their complex chained dynamic choreographic
figures. Conversely, both in training and in competition, judoists are
constantly subjected to unexpected movements imposed by their opponent
in order to make them fall on soft ground (tatami). Therefore, the good
performances of judoists in unusual situations, could be due to the fact
that training in martial arts develops sensorimotor adaptabilities
transferable to posture control in other circumstances. In Judo
practice, the CNS acts to control the position of the body's centre of
gravity relative to the feet and organises postural patterns in this
balance task as a function of available sensory information and
biomechanical constraints [41, 42 and 43].
In fact, the improvement of postural control concurrent to Judo training
appears to be the consequence of a better mastery of the common postural
strategies available in the controls'repertoire and especially those
based on somatosensory inputs [2, 9, 19 and 44]. Blind subjects can also
reach a high level of practice in judo.
In controls, balance control may rather depend on a multisensory
evaluation of imbalance, without a clear prevalence of any sensory input
[2 and 45].
Finally, the hypothesis must be raised that the subjects we tested
practised Judo or Classical Ballet because of their innate sensory
abilities, and that we did not really measure the influence of their
sport's training and practice. Predisposition can effectively facilitate
learning, but in the judoist or in the dancer group, we cannot affirm
that there are no individuals predisposed to the first or to the latter
practice and in the same way that in the control group, there are no
individuals predisposed to one of both sports.
In conclusion, our results confirm that high-level sportsmen display
improved balance control in relation with the requirements of each
discipline. Because the visual afference is a major input used by Ballet
dancers to achieve a better balance regulation, they are likely to fare
less well than controls in daily life situations where this afferent is
missing. Conversely, Judo training leads to the best performances in
terms of maintaining a stable stance in all circumstances as the result
of privileging somatosensory afferences as an essential component of
balance control, abilities likely to have a positive bearing in current
activities. The balance strategies and techniques learned by high-level
judoists should be carefully analysed to determine if they could be
incorporated into treatment programs for injured subjects or non
sportsmen with balance instability.
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