A natural experiment on home field advantage

Photo credit: Robert Britt licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I have written about “experiments of nature” or “natural experiments” before. These events occur when something happens to set up an experimental situation that scientists would never be able to accomplish in other situations. The return of professional sports may provide such an experiment of nature.

Statistical analysis shows that there is a home field or home court advantage in baseball, football, and basketball. In major league baseball, during the 2018 season the home teams won 52.6% of games. This ratio of 53% wins at home and 47% wins on the road has held steady since 1945 according to Baseball Reference.

In professional football, from 1993 to 2012, home teams won just under 60% of games. Lineups.com reports that the home team wins by an average 3 point margin, 55-60% of the time.

In professional basketball, during the 2018-2019 season, home teams won an astounding 71 % of games. The average from 1998-2008 was 60.6% according to BleacherReport.com.

One of the factors thought to play a role in the home field advantage is crowd noise. The home crowd’s noise encourages the home team, and when the crowd makes noise to annoy a batter or interfere with the visiting football team hearing the quarterback signal calling, that has an impact too.

But as professional sports resume play without any fans in the stadium or arena, there is no home crowd to make noise.

The NBA season is being played in Disney World for now, so that’s a different sort of natural experiment. But baseball and football will be played in the usual venues.

At the end of the different sports’ seasons, we might be able to gain some insight into whether it’s crowd noise or something else that provides the home field advantage.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

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  1. Pingback: Creating a home court advantage–the importance of sound – Silencity

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