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The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance

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Now a New York Times Bestseller! With a new chapter added to the paperback. 

In high school, I wondered whether the Jamaican Americans who made our track team so successful might carry some special speed gene from their tiny island. In college, I ran against Kenyans, and wondered whether endurance genes might have traveled with them from East Africa. At the same time, I began to notice that a training group on my team could consist of five men who run next to one another, stride for stride, day after day, and nonetheless turn out five entirely different runners. How could this be?

We all knew a star athlete in high school. The one who made it look so easy. He was the starting quarterback and shortstop; she was the all-state point guard and high-jumper. Naturals. Or were they?

The debate is as old as physical competition. Are stars like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams genetic freaks put on Earth to dominate their respective sports? Or are they simply normal people who overcame their biological limits through sheer force of will and obsessive training?
The truth is far messier than a simple dichotomy between nature and nurture. In the decade since the sequencing of the human genome, researchers have slowly begun to uncover how the relationship between biological endowments and a competitor’s training environment affects athleticism. Sports scientists have gradually entered the era of modern genetic research.

In this controversial and engaging exploration of athletic success, Sports Illustrated senior writer David Epstein tackles the great nature vs. nurture debate and traces how far science has come in solving this great riddle. He investigates the so-called 10,000-hour rule to uncover whether rigorous and consistent practice from a young age is the only route to athletic excellence.

Along the way, Epstein dispels many of our perceptions about why top athletes excel. He shows why some skills that we assume are innate, like the bullet-fast reactions of a baseball or cricket batter, are not, and why other characteristics that we assume are entirely voluntary, like an athlete’s will to train, might in fact have important genetic components.

This subject necessarily involves digging deep into sensitive topics like race and gender. Epstein explores controversial questions such as:
Are black athletes genetically predetermined to dominate both sprinting and distance running, and are their abilities influenced by Africa’s geography?
Are there genetic reasons to separate male and female athletes in competition?
Should we test the genes of young children to determine if they are destined for stardom?
Can genetic testing determine who is at risk of injury, brain damage, or even death on the field?
Through on-the-ground reporting from below the equator and above the Arctic Circle, revealing conversations with leading scientists and Olympic champions, and interviews with athletes who have rare genetic mutations or physical traits, Epstein forces us to rethink the very nature of athleticism.

338 pages, Hardcover

First published August 1, 2013

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About the author

David Epstein

11 books1,595 followers
David Epstein is the author of Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, and of the New York Times bestseller The Sports Gene, which has been translated in 21 languages. He has master's degrees in environmental science and journalism and has worked as an investigative reporter for ProPublica and a senior writer for Sports Illustrated. He lives in Washington, DC.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,027 reviews
Profile Image for Infinite Jen.
77 reviews178 followers
August 3, 2022
Is it an act of temporal thrift to stir one’s coffee with bare penis in order to expedite the dissolution of covalent compounds (i.e. sugar, cocaine, horse piss), and vouchsafe the phallic related esoterica of the Coriolis Force (i.e. when the black skin of a fresh cuppa' assumes a state of collective molecular concavitation to accommodate the crowd surfing antics of a turgid moose knuckle that then decides to initiate a violent circular mosh in which the glans is spinning like a sweaty t-shirt which clips you in the eye as you’re just trying to appreciate the irregular structure of guitarist Mårten Hagström‘s time signature buffoonery in order to write an academic paper titled: “You fuckin’ wot, mate?” With the tentative subtitle: Re-Casting Metal: Rhythm and Meter in the music of Meshuggah and you fucking W0T? Which causes you to spill your microbrew and scream: “GODDAMN! DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY INTERNATIONAL BITTERING UNITS YOU JUST CONSIGNED TO THE MUD, BUD!” Whilst insinuating yourself, with Brando-esque alcoholic physicality, right slap-dab in the nucleus of his most personal space, so that the darkness of your flaring nostrils totally occludes the possibility of escape or de-escalation, and all around you a force is being produced which acts perpendicular to the direction of motion and to the axis of the left nut.), and subject the dick-ladleler to a rapid upregulation of heat shock proteins due to the acute hormetic stressor of going balls deep in the thermally energetic Best Part of Waking Up?

Hold that thought.

Have you ever, after a long hiatus from reviewing, decided to launch back into the fray (at great personal cost due to Elden Ring induced median nerve compression (i.e. Carpal Tunnel) which presents with the following symptoms: Pain, tingling, numbness (which heralds the kind of novelty that, almost surely, ensures excessive use of the phantom limb in the corralling of tadpoles (i.e. interrogating the suspect (i.e. giving Squidward the business (i.e. whipping poor Rick (i.e. playing the pink guitar (i.e. making your bed.), which forms a kind of masturbatory Ouroboros of self-sucking agony), and being dragged, against your will, by the possessed phalanges, into the kitchen wherein the animated hand then proceeds to explode ceramic vessels of all shapes and sizes across your face and head while you shout, most urgently, at your family, “The morphology of the distal phalanges of human thumbs closely reflects an adaptation for a refined precision grip with pad-to-pad contact!”), wielding your trademark incoherence like a colossal hammer in order to perform blasphemous alchemical feats of strength (i.e. fuse disparate concepts into ghastly chimeric alloys using kinetic energy sufficient to knock a basilisk’s balls through three shoeboxes full of dried semen and locust husks) and cram unbridled joy into the hearts, minds, and dilated orifices of the small, but dedicated, group of delinquents who are fortified against life’s Tom-Shittery by your routine violations of grammar, logic, and obscenity laws?

Regrettably, it’s that time in the review where I address the actual book.

People are built differently. This statement, which will strike everyone who isn’t ideologically blinkered by an extremist view of human development which presupposes that all variation is the product of environment, will appear rather banal and self evident (i.e. occupy that shelf of conceptual prosthetics we refer to as a contrunctification of both the common and sensible). For those who possess dander of insufficient elevation, I compound your irritation with this additional heresy: If presented with a hypothetical in which you must have your jaw jacked by a man or a woman, pulled from the global population at random, and, during your choice, you hesitate for even a moment, or utter: “Well, it depends…” You are, at best, attempting not to offend (whilst almost certainly incurring additional medical fees). There is an obvious answer to this question for the non masochistic. Likewise, if you have the bone structure of a small bird, you’re about as likely to become a Yokozuna as I am to omit needless words. If you can get past these obvious facts and want to learn more about the genetic variation which produces elite level athletes, this is a great book. If you’re lost and confused about the fact that you spent decades working up to a respectable four plate deadlift, only to have Billy enter the gym untrained and Zercher Curl that sumbitch like it owed him money, maybe you’ll be able to forgive yourself after reading this. If you spent all summer wearing your Ultra Strength Plyometric Training Shoes in the hopes of significantly increasing your vertical, only to find your (very marginal) improvement eclipsed by Sarah (who spent all her break eating popsicles, and tossing shurikens at drug addled possums (I don’t condone this.), look to science to assuage.
Profile Image for David Rubenstein.
801 reviews2,503 followers
January 16, 2014
This book is an exploration of many of the factors that influence the performance of top-flight athletes. The book starts out with a fascinating, attention-getting description of a challenge softball game. A pro softball team challenges a pro baseball team to a softball game. The young woman softball pitcher approaches the pitcher's mound, and her entire team sits down on the field! They realize that there is no possibility for any of the baseball team to hit the ball! And they are absolutely right--the opposing team never makes a hit! David Epstein explains why this happened, but while exceedingly impressive, the reason has absolutely nothing to do with genetics. It has to do with training, and the subconscious cues that ball players learn with lots of practice.

It used to be thought that fast reaction time is a useful prediction of future great baseball player. But now, it turns out, reaction time is not useful at all. The best baseball players have average reaction times. Instead, the most useful predictor is visual acuity. A good baseball (or softball player) uses his special visual acuity to view the pitcher's muscles during a wind-up, to glean a better estimate of the nature of the pitch.

This first two chapters are very reminiscent of the style of Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success, and even mentions Gladwell's misunderstanding of the 10,000 hour "rule". But after this tangent, the book begins the real subject matter, the implications of genetics on the very best athletes. A central theme of the book is that each sport favors a different set of body attributes. Some sports favor short, stocky body types, others favor tall ones, some favor thin legs, others favor thick, muscular legs. A good sports coach will recognize when a young athlete is better suited to some other sport than the one he (or she) is presently practicing. The book is full of anecdotes where a good coach steers an athlete in some other direction, with wonderful results.

For example, a woman named Alisa Camplin who competed in gymnastics, track and field, and sailing was directed to aerial skiing. With her lack of experience, she was completely accident-prone as she broke a rib on her first jump, and hit a tree on her second. While she competed in the Olympics at Salt Lake City in 2002 she was like "a giraffe on roller skates." But she won a gold medal!

Another important theme in the book is the dichotomy between nature and nurture. Epstein shows that having the right genes is essential to becoming a top athlete in a sport. Practice and experience are essential for some sports, but not so much in others, as long as the right genes are present. The style of this book is truly wonderful. Epstein blends long, interesting anecdotes with good scientific explanations of physiology and genetics. I'm not a sports fan, but Epstein made the subject come alive for me.

Profile Image for Otis Chandler.
385 reviews112k followers
January 6, 2021
Very interesting and scientific book, highly recommended especially for parents. The book goes into the age old nature vs nuture question for what makes a successful athlete. And basically finds that both are required. Wsome people are more athletic than others for their given sport, and some people "respond" better to training. You need to both have the right body type AND be a high responder to reach elite - but you still have to train!

"The truth is, even at the most basic level, it’s always a hardware and software story. The hardware is useless without the software, just as the reverse is true. Sport skill acquisition does not happen without both specific genes and a specific environment, and often the genes and the environment must coincide at a specific time."

You also have to train enough to be able to be able to read the game at a glance. This requires lots of hours spent, whether its basketball or chess or any sport.

"elite athletes need less time and less visual information to know what will happen in the future, and, without knowing it, they zero in on critical visual information, just like expert chess players. Elite athletes chunk information about bodies and player arrangements the way that grandmasters do with rooks and bishops."

The book lays into the 10,000 hour theory a bit, made popular by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers, saying that the time spent alone is not enough. A person also has to have some sort of genetic advantage, AND have the passion and focus to make those hours of practice as useful as possible. For instance, if I practice tennis with a mediocre player vs if I practice with Roger Federer or a top tier player, I'm going to progress at very different rates on those hours. So it's not just hours spent, there is a quality metric attached to it.

"The average students accumulated 1,382 hours of play and practice on their first instrument prior to entering the school, compared to 615 hours for the exceptional students, who only focused on one instrument and ramped up their practice activities later."
Profile Image for CoachJim.
155 reviews81 followers
June 13, 2021
The introduction to this book states that in 2003 the completion of the Human Genome Project led researchers to look for the roots of human traits. Sports scientists looked for single genes that might influence athleticism. It was soon apparent that the effect of single genes was undetectable. Further studies sought to discern the interplay of “biological endowments and rigorous training.” This is the great nature-versus-nurture debate.

David Epstein is a writer for Sports Illustrated. Here he is trying to unravel the many factors that determine success in athletics. He opens by reviewing some famous athletic families where success in sports has followed a previous generation.

This leads to his examination of a genetic link to athletic success. He follows the genetic research being done to determine the role genes play and how the interplay of innate ability and practice affects athleticism. Scientists have failed to detect genes that might predict athleticism. When the sequencing of the human genome was announced it was supposed to usher in an age of “personalized medicine”. However, scientists were unable to even find a single gene responsible for the height in humans. It was obvious that human traits were much more complex.

The author reports that there is a stigma associated with genetic research. There are social implications that genes strictly determine certain human traits, which might lead to discrimination. There are also privacy issues regarding health and other conditions.

The “practice only” narrative to explain success, although appealing to our sense that anything is possible with hard work, ignores the contribution of innate talent. But he explains:

“Tests of innate physical ‘hardware’ — qualities that an athlete is apparently born with, like simple reaction time — had done astonishingly little to help explain expert performance in sports.”
(Page 6)

This brings in the discussion of Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hour” theory that dedicated practice determines success in sports. This leads to the question that if only accumulated hours of practice matter, then why are sports separated for men and women. The answer to that lies in the presence of the Y chromosome.

The book does deal with quite a bit of science, and although the author does a good job explaining this in layman’s terms, there are sections that dive deep into genetics. For instance, consider the following:

This particular gene tells the body how to build the EPO receptor, a molecule that sits atop bone marrow cells awaiting the EPO hormone. If the EPO receptor is a keyhole, it is one made specifically to accept only the key that is the EPO hormone. Once the key is in the lock, the production of red blood cells proceeds. The receptor signals a bone marrow cell to start the process of creating a red blood cell that contains hemoglobin.
(Page 276-277)

This paragraph is part of a long section.

The author is a runner so many of his examples involve running or endurance sports. As such he describes the different muscle fiber types: slow-twitch and fast-twitch. Fast-twitch fibers contract at least twice as fast as slow-twitch fibers, and are characterized as explosive movement. For athletics this translate into the fact that sprinters have more fast-twitch muscle fibers and long distance runners have more slow-twitch muscles fibers.

This is interesting when he reports that internationally sprint events have been dominated by Jamaicans in recent years. He links this to their heritage as coming from East Africa where malaria is common. That led to specific genetic and metabolic alterations of genes that protect against it. One effect was an increase to more fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are less dependent aerobic energy — a benefit in resisting malaria.

One of the last stories that Epstein relates is about Eero Mantyranta. A genetic mutation left him, and other family members, with unusually elevated hemoglobin levels. This trait is very beneficial to endurance athletes in that it delivers more oxygen to the muscles. Mantyranta lived in the far north of Finland. As a young child he had to ski many miles to school each day. As he grew older he realized he could be successful as a Cross-Country skier and embarked on a rigorous training program. (He won seven Olympic medals, thee of them gold.) This story is used to illustrate that genes, environment and training are equally important to athletic success. Mintyranta’s life and success are both 100% nature and 100% nurture.

The last chapter of this book is a wonderful essay on the nuances of “The Sports Gene.” What is the purpose of finding the genetic components of a perfect athlete? Unless we start breeding humans similar to Thoroughbred horses we should embrace and enjoy the “fantastic menagerie that is human biological diversity.”

Amid the pageantry of the Opening Ceremony at the [next Olympics], make sure to look for the extremes of human physique. The 4’9” gymnast beside the 310-pound shot putter who is looking up at the 6’10" basketball player whose arms are seven and a half feet from fingertip to fingertip. Or the 6’4” swimmer who strides into the Olympic stadium beside his countryman, the 5’9” miler, both men wearing the same length pants.
(Page 289)

The author uses the example of Michael Jordan. He was certainly blessed with genes that made him tall enough to play basketball, but it was his hard work that perfected his basketball skills. “Discovering genes that influence athletic performance will detract from the hard work undertaken by athletes.”

To pursue athletic improvement is to embark on a quest in search of the practice plan that suits your inimitable biology. … [A] single exercise program will produce a vast and individualized range of improvement for any particular trait. … Sure, there were subjects who saw no improvement in aerobic fitness, but perhaps their blood pressure dropped, or their cholesterol levels improved. Everyone benefits from exercise or sports practice in some unique way. To take part is a journey of self-discovery that, largely, is beyond even the illuminating reach of cutting science.
Profile Image for Thanawat.
436 reviews
May 10, 2020
ชอบ ดีมากจริงๆ

หนังสือ pop-sci เล่มหนานุ่มเล่มนี้เขียนได้ดีจริงๆ

หนังสือช่วยยืนยันว่า ความสำเร็จไม่ได้ถูกสร้างขึ้นง่ายๆ ด้วยสิ่งที่เรียกว่ายีน
หนังสือช่วยยืนยันว่า พรสววรค์เป็นคำชื่นชมกลางๆ ที่แท้จริงแล้วมันเป็นส่วนผสมของหลายๆ ปัจจัย
หนังสือช่วยยืนยันว่า มันไม่มีสูตรสำเร็จสูงสุดหนึ่งเดียวที่เป็น ultimate fomula ในการกำหนดความสำเร็จของนักกีฬา

ตอนแรกที่เริ่มอ่านเข้าใจว่าผู้เขียนจะพาไปค้นหารหัสพันธุกรรมหรือยีนของนักกีฬาระดับโลกที่เป็นปัจจัยกำหนดความสำเร็จ และจะเอาเรื่องของยีนนั้นมาขยายต่อไปจนถึงขั้นสร้างยอดมนุษย์นักกีฬาขึ้นมาได้เสียอีก

แต่ปรากฎว่าเมื่ออ่านจบ สรุปได้เลยว่าการจะสร้างยอดมนุษย์นักกีฬา มันต้องอาศัยทั้งปัจจัยภายใน และภายนอก ภายใต้เงื่อนไขที่เหมาะเจาะจริงๆ
ยิ่งไปกว่านั้น ต่อให้มีปัจจัยเพรียบพร้อมแค่ไหน ถ้าคนๆ นั้นไม่ได้อยากเล่น ไม่ได้ชอบเล่น และไม่ได้มุ่งมั่นในการพัฒนาฝีมือด้วยการฝึกซ้อม มันก็ไม่มีทางเกิดหรอก ไอ้ยอดมนุษย์นักกีฬาเนี่ย

ยอดมนุษย์นักกีฬา = ปัจจัยภายนอก + ปัจจัยภายใน + passion - ยีนอุปสรรค

ปัจจัยภายนอก เป็นปัจจัยที่น่าสนใจมาก เพราะมันเกี่ยวข้องกับชีวิตคนๆ นั้นตั้งแต่เกิด ไม่ว่าจะเป็นฐานะ ชีวิตความเป็นอยู่ การศึกษา โอกาสในชีวิต ที่จะมีโอกาสได้เล่นกีฬา ได้เจอแมวมอง หรือมีถิ่นกำเนิดที่เอื้อต่อการพัฒนาตัวเองจากการฝึกซ้อม และที่สำคัญที่สุดคือครอบครัว

ปัจจัยภายในนั้นยิ่งน่า fancy เพราะมันลากยาวไปถึงการวิวัฒนาการ การย้ายถิ่นฐาน การดำรงชีวิตของบรรพบุรุษของคนๆ นั้น จนถูกคัดสรรมาเป็นชนกลุ่มหนึ่งที่มียีนหลากหลายกำหนดโครงสร้างร่างกายที่พ���เหมาะพอเจาะกับการเล่นกีฬา ที่สำคัญคือไม่ใช่พิมพ์เขียวเดียว จะเหมาะกับทุกกีฬา แต่ละชนิดกีฬาก็ต้องการลักษณะพิเศษบางอย่างที่วิวัฒน์มาอย่างจำเพาะเจาะจงกับการดำรงชีพ แต่ดันมาเอื้อต่อการเล่นกีฬา

องค์ประกอบสุดท้ายคือ passion
เรื่องนี้สำคัญสุดยอด ผู้เขียนให้คุณค่ากับเรื่องนี้มาก และเราก็ควรจะให้คุณค่ากับเรื่องนี้มากกว่าการบอกว่านักกีฬาเก่งเพราะพรสวรรค์
มันไม่ใช่เด็กทุกคน ที่จะสามารถจดจ่อ อดทนกับการฝึกซ้อมอย่างทรหด จนสามารถดึงสิ่งที่ตัวเอง advantage ออกมาได้ นอกจากนี้ ยังต้องมุ่งมั่นในสายอาชีพ ไม่วอกแวกท้อแท้ด้วยปัจจัยภายนอกที่มารบกวนอีกตะหาก

ยีนอุปรรคที่กล่าวถึง อยู่ในบทที่ผู้เขียนอุทิศให้กับโรคทางพัยธุกรรมหรือความผิดปกติบางอย่าง เช่น โรคผนังหัวใจห้องล่างซ้ายหนา (HOCM) ที่ทำให้นักกีฬาเสียชีวิตระหว่างเล่นกีฬา เพราะมันเป็นอุปสรรคที่แทบจะไม่มีทางเอาชนะได้ถ้าต้องการเล่นกีฬาในระดับสูง

หนังสือเรียบเรียงด้วยภาษาที่คนทั่วไปอ่านได้เข้าใจ แม้จะมีความเป็นเฉพาะทางอยู่แต่ก็ไม่ได้เป็นอุปสรรคมากนัก เป็นประสบการณ การเดินทางไปหาคำตอบ ไปหาสมการที่สร้างสุดยอดนักกีฬาที่ยอดเยี่ยมจริงๆ


“ในความเป็นจริง การทุกเถียงว่าความเชี่ยวชาญด้านกีฬาเกิดจากการฝึกฝนหรือจากธรรมชาติเพียงอย่างใดอย่างหนึ่งนั้นเป็นเรื่องเปล่าประโยชน์ ถ้านักกีฬาทุกคนในโลกเป็นพี่น้องที่เหมือนกันเป๊ะกับนักกีฬาคนอื่นๆ ก็จะมีแค่สิ่งแวดล้อมและการฝึกซ้อมเท่านั้นที่ช่วยตัดสินว่าใครจะได้ไปแข่งโอลิมปิกหรือได้เล่นอาชีพ ตรงกันข้าม ถ้านักกีฬาทุกคนในโลกซ้อมแบบเดียวกัน ก็จะมียีนเท่านั้น ที่เป็นตัวแยกผลงานในสนามแข่งของพวกเขา แต่ทั้งสองสถานการณ์ไม่เคยเกิดขึ้นจริง”
Profile Image for Петър Стойков.
Author 3 books255 followers
December 20, 2022
Ако се трудиш упорито, можеш да постигнеш всичко, нали?

Амиииииии.... като цяло не. Упоритият труд се отплаща многократно и без него успехът идва много рядко, но без талант е невъзможно да постигнеш върховете в каквато и да е дейност. Това важи особено много за спорта и авторът на настоящата книга се е заел да проучи точно до каква степен.

Използвайки това, че в спорта се водят и пазят всякакви видове статистически данни както за постиженията, така и за теглото, ръста, възрастта, родното място и т.н. на спортистите, той изследва зависимостта на спортните постижения както с положените часове труд (тренировки), така и с генетичната предразположеност.

От една страна той успява да покаже, че упоритият труд наистина се отплаща и че няколко хиляди часа усилени тренировки са задължителни за всеки шампион. От друга, доказва, че както физическата предразположеност за високи спортни постижения, така и самата упоритост, позволяваща да се тренира много, са до голяма степен генетични - и за да станеш шампион ти трябва по много и от двете.

Интересна страна на книгата е неизбежният паралел между различните етноси и предразположеността им към по-добри постижения в различни спортове, които авторът обяснява много добре в еволюционен аспект, свързан с миграцията на човечеството.
Profile Image for Delway Burton.
283 reviews4 followers
August 12, 2013
This is an important and brave book. Any discussion of human performance based on DNA is a big no-no. Its the scientific 900 pound gorilla. Politicians, celebrities, academicians, coaches, and CEO's have all fallen hard at the mere hint of it. The link of performance or worth based on our genes has a sad history stretching across the millennia as genocide and more recently eugenics. The all-wise media seems to ignore the fact that the very essence of life is our DNA and that to a great degree living things preform based on the code found there. At the human level we have the additional nature vs. nurture argument which Mr. Epstein does an excellent job of balancing. He mixes his personal experiences and travel, from the Cockpit Country of Jamaica, to the highlands of Kenya, to the arctic circle in Finland, with the hard science of human athletic performance based on known science. I was aware of some of the results he discusses, but many were a total surprise. For example, the primary characteristic of major league baseball hitters is not their reflexes or strength, but rather they possess Superman vision. He draws no conclusions other than to point out that genetics seems to curiously find an opportunity. On the nurture side he points out that the presence of a sports culture, the promise of reward, and ability to train and train very, very hard brings results. He also points out what we should all remember is that the Olympics and indeed professional sports of any kind represent the elite not the mean. This is a great read for anyone who enjoys the pageant of world sport.
Profile Image for Nicholas Sparks.
Author 193 books222k followers
January 13, 2016
As a former college athlete, I found this investigation into what makes great athletes absolutely fascinating. David Epstein shows that there’s a lot of complicated middle ground to explore when it comes to the question of nature versus nurture.
Profile Image for Scot.
956 reviews28 followers
March 31, 2014
Most thinking and observant people, based on accumulating evidence, have moved beyond the old “Nature v. Nurture” simplistic either/or dichotomy to try to better understand the complex ways these two categories interplay and interact, both over the course of any given individual’s life, and over broader ranges of time for larger groupings of related peoples, in creating just who we are and offering potential or setting limits for what we might become. David Epstein, a reporter for Sports Illustrated, gathers here, in a very readable, well documented, and sweeping review, an assessment as of 2013 as to how much we now know about the distinct (and interwoven) roles of genetics and cultural (as well as physical) environment in creating elite athletes. Just what is inherited and what isn’t? How much can early training of the gifted make a difference? Can anyone, with enough of the right training and practice, rise to the level of a superstar? What different genetic traits or cultivated skills are most crucial across different types of sports, and how do the two correlate in creating a champion? This philosophical question arises as well: based on what we can learn about people’s genetic predispositions, how could or should this information be used?

I enjoyed this book very much, both for the wide range of different types of sports covered and for the wide range of human cultural groups visited and investigated. We learn about track stars from Jamaica, marathon runners from Kenya, cross country skiers from Finland, water polo superstars from Croatia, and many more. (We even move beyond humans for one chapter on the genetics of creating the best dog teams to win the Iditerod, which made me nostalgic for the huskie/malamute kennels my family had when I was a teen.) It is fascinating to me how complexly genetic instructions are overlaid within our DNA materials, and what just one tiny genetic mutation might achieve. What we have already learned is remarkable, but to use a metaphor Epstein himself employs, we are only beginning to scrape the tip of the iceberg. No matter what your particular special sport or sports of interest might be, a lot of useful knowledge and also some riveting tales of both personal triumph and incredible fortitude in the face of challenge can be found here. Some implications of concerns to arise in the future are suggested (some already beginning) about how much about a person’s future predispositions or limitations, already encoded in their DNA, could or should be available to others (like for instance, future possible employers or insurers).
February 27, 2014
สนุกดี เล่าเรื่องการเสาะแสวง "ยีนกีฬา" (รหัสพันธุกรรมที่ทำให้คนเก่งกีฬาชนิดใดชนิดหนึ่งตั้งแต่กำเนิด)ในวงการวิทยาศาสตร์กีฬาสมัยใหม่

บทสรุปเรื่องยีนกีฬาไม่ต่างจากเรื่องอื่นๆ คือมันเป็น "ส่วนผสม" ระหว่างสิ่งที่ธรรมชาติให้มา (nature) กับการฝึกฝน สภาพแวดล้อม ฯลฯ หลังจากนั้น (nurture) แต่ธรรมชาติกับสภาพแวดล้อมปะทะกัน "อย่างไร" ในรายละเอียดคือประเด็นที่น่าสนใจ และหนังสือเล่มนี้อธิบายได้ดีมากโดยเฉพาะความแตกต่างระหว่างกีฬาต่างๆ

เต็มไปด้วยเกร็ดน่ารู้และประวัตินักกีฬาที่น่าสนใจทั้งเล่ม ที่สนุกเป็นพิเศษคือเรื่องราวของนักวิ่งเคนยาและประเทศอื่นอีกบางประเทศในแอฟริกา อาทิ เอธิโอเปีย - อะไรทำให้พวกเขาวิ่งระยะไกลเก่งกว่าคนอื่น? ยีน? สภาพแวดล้อม? การฝึกสอน? หลายอย่างประกอบกัน? ยังไง? หนังสือค่อยๆ เฉลยคำตอบเหมือนนิยายนักสืบสนุกๆ เรื่องหนึ่ง

ชอบที่หนังสือหักล้างวิธีอธิบายที่ "เหมารวมเกินไป" ของนาย Malcolm Gladwell ด้วย ที่อ้างว่าทุกคนถ้าฝึกอะไรก็ตาม 10,000 ชั่วโมง จะเชี่ยวชาญเรื่องนั้นๆ โดยอัตโนมัติ ทั้งที่ผลการวิจัยจริงๆ แล้ว 10,000 ชั่วโมงเป็น "ค่าเฉลี่ย" เท่านั้น ขอบเขต (range) มีตั้งแต่ไม่กี่ร้อยชั่วโมงไปจนถึงหลายหมื่นชั่วโมง และคำตอบที่ว่าเราแต่ละคนจะต้องฝึกกี่ชั่วโมง ส่วนหนึ่งก็ขึ้นอยู่กับพรสวรรค์แต่กำเนิด (ยีน) ประกอบกับช่วงอายุเริ่มต้น (ยิ่งฝึกตั้งแต่เด็ก ฝีมือยิ่งพัฒนาเร็ว)
Profile Image for Carie.
209 reviews
January 6, 2021
I was very excited to read this book. Unlike some of the other reviewers, I was not looking for a book that profiled famous athletes. I was looking for a book that reviewed the scientific literature on athletic performance and the interconnection between nature and nurture. During the first chapter or two, I was very pleased with the author's attempts to address causal complexity --- how it is incredibly difficult to separate the impact of learned/trained and genetic factors on success (any kind of success, not just athletic). The early chapters address the 10,000 hour rule with a critical eye that has been lacking in other attempts to examine the interaction of training and genetics.

However, after the first couple of chapters, the author moves deeper and deeper into genetic analysis of athletic performance and as he does so, his interpretation of the scientific literature that he chooses to review and the conclusions he draws become increasingly simplistic, ignoring the complexity he discussed earlier. I was particularly bothered by several recurring problems: poor definition of athleticism, drawing conclusions based on ecological fallacy and neglecting the causal complexity that the author claims to have addressed, and ignoring research that does not fit with the author's desired conclusion.

First, the author is exploring the literature on elite athletic performance, using professional athletic success as the selection criteria. But this ignores the reality that actual athleticism may not be fully encompassed or represented in current sports for which one might be paid to perform. Indeed, it might not be fully encompassed in activities currently referred to as sports. At the very least, the author should have discussed the potential limitations of using professional athletic achievement as the criteria for identifying athleticism. For example, he repeatedly notes that pygmy peoples are not genetically suited to playing in the NBA. But being of smaller stature does not mean that they lack athleticism --- it means that if you define athleticism in a certain way, you will bias your conclusions about the impact of specific genetic factors.

Second, the author begins the book by discussing the difficulty of trying to identify independent impacts of genetics and training, and even identifies in several chapters that the tremendous amounts of genetic variation within and across groups makes attributing success to a single gene difficult. But then, the author goes on to interpret findings within the scientific literature in a very simplistic manner. For example, the general finding that individuals with lower center gravity will be better swimmers, and that white people tend to have a lower center of gravity than black people, is then used to explain why black athletes should choose sports other than swimming. However, there are multiple very large problems with this. First is that this conclusion rests on ecological fallacy --- the idea that something that holds true at the population level holds true at the individual level. Any given athlete from any racial group might vary from the trend in the population. Making recommendations to individuals based on population data rather than on individual data, is problematic. Second, center of gravity is not the only factor that might affect success --- either in terms of training or genetics. The size of hands and feet, the length of legs, the distribution of fat, overall buoyancy, etc. are all physical factors that affect performance. But the author does not discuss this complexity, the degree to which any one of these physical features individually affects performance, or the degree to which any one of these physical features interacts with training.

In addition, most of the research starts by identifying elite athletes and then searching for common genetic factors. But, again, there is a selection bias based on what activities one can get paid to perform (or go to the Olympics with). Moreover, this approach neglects selection biases associated with socioeconomic and cultural factors. For example, although the author mentions multiple times that pygmy peoples are ill suited for basketball, he fails to address the fact that they might be extremely well suited to other athletic activities --- say gymnastics. This is because there are other factors that likely prevent them from entering the field to begin with. If you're only looking for what is currently successful, you are not looking at the broader realm of potential success.

Along the same lines, its worth thinking about what types of athleticism sports are actually measuring and how they are designed. For example, gymnastics is not a naturally occurring phenomenon. Humans created it. And we specifically created a sport and designed the point allocations in such a way that a woman who has reached puberty is less likely to be competitive. Does that mean that women who can't complete acrobatic tumbling routines are less athletic than those that can? No, it means that sports are designed to favor certain types of activities, body types, and levels of development. Unless you're willing to wrestle with a different way of defining athleticism, you absolutely have to wrestle with how the structures/rules/design of sports affects how you're measuring athleticism and what genetic factors might influence success.

Similarly, the author never addresses how norms and institutions within sports affect how successful one body type might be. For example, while height and long arms are certainly beneficial in basketball, individual success is partly determined by interactions of other factors --- quality and chemistry of teammates, types of plays, type defense, etc. Part of the game itself is finding ways to exploit weaknesses in your opponents system --- and many of those weaknesses are not about height. It's possible for a shorter person to be highly competitive when playing on a team that uses that individual in specific ways. The author only addresses this in the case of dog-sledding, when he discusses the marathon strategy over the sprint strategy. But the same thing is relevant for many human sports.

The author also chooses literature/research and draws conclusions in a more definitive manner that he should given the complexity of causality and the existence of additional research that might contradict that finding. For example, in the chapter titled "Why Men Have Nipples" the author examines the difference in athletic performance between men and women. He reviews the sexual selection literature and the literature on the importance of hormones in development of muscle and bone in an effort to explain why men are more athletic than women (using professional sports as the measure of athleticism). Here, he specifically avoids a growing literature on women's comparative advantage in ultra-endurance sports and a vast literature on human evolution. Instead, he asks the question "Why are women athletic at all?" given that women only needed to "carry children and dig for tubers". He concludes that women are athletic for the same reason men have nipples --- if one sex needs something, the other sex has to have that trait to, thus women are athletic because men need to be athletic to have sex with as many partners as possible. This question and the statement about women's "activities" ignores a growing literature that challenges the idea that sex roles in early human development have always reflected today's stratified sex roles. Moreover, this conclusion ignores the evolutionary reality that women are likely athletic because they evolved facing the same predators and environmental pressures as men. Nobody thinks that female horses have four legs and are able to run because stallions have to run to round up mares to mate with. Even among his other example which focuses on the degree of difference between male and female --- gorillas --- nobody assumes the female is athletic and muscular to serve only the reproductive requirements of the male. So why the laziness of thought when it comes to men and women. I suspect the reason is the author didn't want to have to actually address the broader literature and this conclusion enabled him to continue to review literature that focused primarily on male athletes without having to further address sex when discussing genetic factors.

My last concern is one of ethics and the author's failure to address outcomes and opportunity costs associated with elite athletic performance. The author discusses the Jamaican sprinting program intended to identify and train the best sprinters. He discusses several cases where individuals are forced to forgo other opportunities --- like a college education --- by the national athletic organization in order to train for and become a sprinter. Similarly, he discusses genetic and behavioral factors that affect how individuals experience pain. In one example, he uses an example of NFL linemen and how pain can prevent a "peak" performance. But there is no discussion about why we experience pain --- what the value or meaning of pain is. With the exception of discussing how people who genetically do not feel pain tend to die young, he does not address how ignoring pain caused by athletic performance might cause tremendous harm and even lead to the inability to engage in any athletic endeavor in the future. This book seems to start from the assumption that production of athletic performance is a good that has value of its own and that value outweighs other considerations. The author never takes the time to examine whether all of the time, effort, resources, and lives dedicated to improving athletic performances, which by the studies' own definitions are valuable primarily as they are consumed for entertainment purposes, is worthwhile and valuable to society or the individual who performs them.

This pattern of lazy, superficial thought, incomplete review of the literature, and faulty conclusions exists throughout the book. As a result, I would recommend that anyone who reads this to avoid accepting the author's conclusions as stated. Indeed, I strongly suggest seeking out the studies he cites and reviewing them yourself, and considering their findings/implications in a much more cautious manner than the author of this book did.
807 reviews11 followers
November 30, 2013
A fascinating, though uneven, look at what we know about the nature versus nurture debate. The first half, as Kate pointed out, is really a refutation of Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. Epstein first cites the 10,000 hour rule that is accepted in pop science as the amount of time to become an expert to explain how professional baseball players are able to hit a pitch that the human eye is in fact incapable of tracking across the plate (long story short, they develop a database of where balls are likely to end up based upon lots of experience). This also explains why those same baseball players cannot hit a softball pitcher because the information is totally different. Incidentally, he cites a study showing that Albert Pujols is only in the 66th percentile of adults in reaction time. But Epstein then goes on to show how the 10,000 hour rule is not a hard and fast rule, but rather an average, meaning some people may get to elite status after 3,000 hours; some may never get there at all.

After a pretty good chapter on male vs. female athletes, the book moves on to a discussion of training patterns and regimens. This too is quite strong, though also boils down to the similar idea that the general way people respond is an average and there is a distribution within that. Still, the idea that people start at different baselines of fitness and where they can move or improve from there is radically different is somewhat interesting.

Probably my two favorite chapters are those on what Epstein calls the "Big Bang of Body Types," and one that then applies that to the NBA. The Big Bang argument is basically tailor made for a Moneybox post. It alms about how we moved from a world where all athletes shared roughly the same height and weight characteristics to one of extreme specialization. As a result, our sprinters have gotten taller, our gymnasts shorter, our linemen heavier, and our basketball players taller. It's an interesting argument that's less actually about genetics and more really a focus on sorting and markets and the economic effect of internationalizing certain sports.

This internationalizing effect becomes pretty interesting in the NBA chapter. There Epstein discusses how even though even a "short" NBA player is still at the far right end of the human male height distribution, and that we've basically done a better job finding the tall people across the world to get them into the NBA as we tapped out our domestic supply of capable athletes at necessary heights. As an example of this phenomenon, he discusses how the average height of the European players in the NBA is actually greater than that of the American players. Also fascinating is his projected breakdown of height versus probability of playing in the NBA. If you are 6'2" you have a 5:1,000,000 chance of playing in the NBA. Growing two inches more brings the odds up to 20:1,000,000. But someone 6'10" to 7' your odds are about 3.2 percent (or 32,000:1,000,000). But the craziest thing is he estimates that 17 percent or about one out of every six of American men between the ages of 20 and 40 who are at least 7 feet tall are in the NBA right now. What's particularly crazy about that is some people get to that height due to pituitary issues that would preclude them from likely being able to play basketball (though some like Gheorge Muresan did). Sort them out and that means the odds are likely even higher. It's true what they say "you can't teach height."

Also fascinating tidbits from the NBA chapter:
* The difference between the average NBA player and the average man is greater than the difference between the average WNBA player and the average woman, likely because we haven't sorted as effectively since its not as financially remunerative to play in the WNBA.
*Wingspan in excess of height matters beyond height at a certain point. The average NBA player's ratio of wingspan to height is greater than the ratio at which concerns about Marfan's syndrome arise. The only players in 2010-11 with wingspans shorter than their heights? J.J. Redick and Yao Ming.
*Height and wingspan can predict about half of a player's likely defensive rebounds.
*Height differences in a population is 80 percent genetics, 20 percent environment.
*White players generally have a lower wingspan to height ratio than black players.

Unfortunately, a big chunk of the book is less about the genes behind sports and athletes than it is about running in particular. These parts raise some interesting discussions about the pairing of high altitude lifestyles in places like Kenya combined with a low-income lifestyle that leads to highly successful endurance athletes, as well as some stuff on the racial divide in athletics that is pretty well handled given how rarely that seems to be discussed intelligently. None of this is bad per se, but it feels one or maybe two dimensional. It's a discussion of one specific skill executed either quickly in the form of sprinting or excruciatingly over lengths of time that you'd have to be a crazy person to do in the form of distance running. There's not as much explaining what might make someone good at football or hockey (there's no refutation of the Gladwell birthdate part of Outliers).

Apart from one chapter that talks about sled dogs and work ethic, there's not as much talk about grit or determination, which isn't surprising given how tough a thing that is to quantify. But it does sort of play into the difficult argument that Epstein threads at the end. It's clear that some genetic things clearly do give people an athletic advantage. Yet there are plenty of people with talent who do not make it into professional athletics while less-skilled ones do. And even those that do make it have to work hard to get there. Some may not work as hard as others, but it does take work and practice and time--also more predictive time spent practicing, as experts tend to do. But how much this hard work or dedication stuff is innate versus developed also matters, since that would explain who engages in that hard training and who doesn't.

Finally, I do wish there'd been a bit more about team sports or things that go beyond just running. One way to have done this would be to discuss more about vision or hearing or other senses, particularly for basketball. You always hear a lot about a player's "court sense." Is that meaningless numbo jumbo? A code word for lots of accumulated practice time and the same memory database that explains baseball hitting? Or something else? It would be very interesting to know more about that. Still, at a certain point books like this are limited by the research they can draw on and it might just not be there. But all in all it's still worth a read.

Profile Image for Pawarut Jongsirirag.
400 reviews64 followers
August 16, 2019
ไมเคิล เฟลป์ / ไมเคิล จอน์เเดน / ไทเกอร์ วู๊ด / ยูเซน โบลท์ พวกเขาเหล่านี้มีอะไรต่างจากเราๆปัจจัยอะไรที่ทำให้พวกเขาขึ้นสู่จุดสูงสุดของสายกีฬาที่พวกเขาลงเเข่ง หนังสือเล่มนี้(อาจ)มีคำตอบของคำถามนั้น

The Sport Gene ตั้งคำถามที่เหมือนเป็นคำถามโลกเเตกของวงการกีฬาทุกวันนี้ว่า “พรสวรรค์หรือการฝึกซ้อมกันเเน่ที่สร้างนักกีฬาชั้นเซียนระดับโลก” คำถามนี้จริงๆเราทุกคนก็น่าจะมีคำตอบในใจ ถ้าอย่างงั้นอะไรทำให้หนังสือเล่มนี้น่าสนใจ

เดวิด เอฟสตีน นักเขียนมือรางวัลสายวงการกีฬา จะพาเราไปสืบเสาะหาคำตอบของคำถามนี้อย่างเจาะลึก (ลึกจริงๆ) เเละเผยว่าอะไรเป็นมายาคติของวงการกีฬาในปัจจุบัน
ในวงการนี้จะมีคำกล่าวว่า ถ้าคุณฝึกฝนถึง 10000 ชม เราทุกคนก็เก่งกันได้ทั้งนั้น มันจริงหรือ??
สิ่งเเวดล้อม สถานที่เกิด เกี่ยวหรือไม่กับการสร้างนักกีฬาชั้นนำ
จริงๆหรือไม่ที่มีชนชาติพิเศษ ที่เกิดมาเพื่อครองความเป็นหนึ่งของกีฬาบางชนิด

นี่คือคำถามเพียงบางข้อที่เอฟสตีนเเย็ปใส่เรา เเละด้วยคำถามเหล่านี้ เขาจะพาเราไปหาคำตอบผ่านการสัมภาษณ์นักกีฬาชั้นนำ ติดตามชีวิตของพวกเขา พูดคุยกับนักวิทยาศาสตร์การกีฬา นักวิทย์สายพันธุกรรมตัวพ่อ ขึ้นเหนือสุดในดินเเดนหนาวเย็นเเละลงล่างสุดสู่เเอฟริกา เพื่อเสาะหานักกีฬาชั้นเทพที่เขาว่ากันว่ามีตัวอย่างยีนที่หายากมากที่สุดในโลก !!

เเม้หนังสืออาจจะไม่ได้ให้คำตอบในบางเรื่องชัดเจน เนื่องจากความก้าวหน้าทางด้านวิทยาศาสตร์ ณ ปัจจุบันยังไปไม่ถึง เเต่ก็ทำให้เราเห็นภาพของคำตอบที่อาจจะมาถึงได้ เเละสิ่งที่เอฟสตีนอาจจะไม่ได้กล่าวไว้โดยตรงเเต่ก็เขาก็พูดถึงเเทรกไว้ในเกือบทุกบท คือ ประวัติศาสตร์ของวงการคัดตัวนักกีฬา ที่วิทยาศาสตร์เเละมายาคติมักปะทะกันอยู่เสมอ

เป็นหนังสือที่ถ้าคุณเป็นนักกีฬาก็จะอ่านอย่างเมามันเเละอินกับข้อเท็จจริงเบื้องหลังของวงการกีฬา เเต่ถ้าไม่ใช่นักกีฬาก็อ่านสนุกในเเบบผู้สังเกตการณ์รอบนอกของวงการนี้
เเละสุดท้ายเเล้ว เอฟสตีนอาจบอกเราว่าวงการนี้ ผู้ชนะเท่านั้นที่ครองทุกสิ่ง เเละผู้เเพ้ก็อาจเป็นเพียงคนที่ซ้อมน้อยไปนิดหรือขาดยีนไปเพียงบางตัวเท่านั้นเอง....
Profile Image for Shawn.
Author 6 books39 followers
January 27, 2014
Is elite athletic performance the result of nature (our genes) or nurture (environment and training)? Yes, according to David Epstein’s The Sports Gene. This engaging and illuminating work is a pleasure to read. The anecdotes are amazing and humanize the scientific questions and issues raised by the role of genes in sport. Epstein does a great job of reporting the science without getting too technical, but without dumbing it down or sensationalizing it. He clears away the misunderstandings and misuse of the effect of genes. We often, he shows, misascribe the influence of genes: over-attributing them in some cases while failing to see their role where there is a significant influence.

Part of the story here is that genes play significant and important roles in athletic performance, but Epstein is careful not to overplay this. First, the target of his work here is extraordinary and elite performances. These are athletes that are already well off the curve. What he finds here isn’t going to necessarily translate back to the rest of us who live in the heart of the bell curve. Second, Epstein doesn’t want to disrespect or downplay the importance of the effort and hard work of these elite athletes. Yes, they often have amazing genetic gifts, but without the effort and practice, these gifts won’t amount to anything. (At the same time, the book looks at the genetic contributions for effort-taking and practicing.)

Another important theme of the book is that a better understanding of the genetic roots of performance can help us improve performance. The differences in our genetic propensities (our genotype) require, in many cases, different kinds of training and practice. Our bodies react to training and practice differently and so, to understand better how to improve our skills and outcomes, we have to understand better how we respond to the environment and training. One person’s strenuous cardio workout might be overkill (tragically quite literally in rare cases) for another.

Epstein doesn’t tackle the issue of genetic manipulation (or gene-doping) head on, but it certainly lurks throughout the book. Over the last century, the scientific and technological influence on training for athletic performance has increased immensely. As our knowledge of the human genome and genetic technology increases, will we see this influence extend beyond training into the athlete’s genetic makeup? Epstein’s tentative response is that, given the state of the science, there is just too much unknown at this point to do this in any extensive or effective way.

But that knowledge is coming; it is more of a when than an if. I am fairly certain that as the knowledge increases, so will the use of this knowledge to improve performance. Epstein is agnostic, ultimately, on the wisdom or morality of doing this. That wasn’t the point of the book, so it is no fault. But his work suggests much about this possible future. Personally, I think that, as with most scientific and technological advances, this will generally be a boon for human civilization and for sport. I am not utopian, though, and recognize that it will come with some harms and dangers. This is in part why it is important to get a better understanding of the science and learn more about how nature and nurture interact.

Another moral question not raised by Epstein, but suggested by his book, is how our understanding of the influence of our genes on performance affects our evaluation of doping. If some people have natural advantages conferred by their genotype, then is it really unfair for someone without those genetic advantages to use a drug to produce a similar effect? For example, Finnish athlete Eero Mantyranta has a genetic variation that makes his red blood count as much as 65 percent higher than that of an average man (274). His body is able to move oxygen to muscles much better than most and this (all other things being equal) gives him an advantage in endurance sport. This is quite similar to the effect of taking EPO as a performance-enhancer. If one of the goals in athletic competitions is a level starting point for athletes, then maybe we ought not ban EPO. That is, maybe, allowing EPO would level the field for athletes that do not have the benefit of genetic advantages. Is there a moral difference (putting aside for the moment the wrongness of the rule-violation) between someone who has a performance advantage from their genotype and someone who has a performance advantage from taking a substance? In more fundamentally, it begins to challenge the traditional concepts and evaluations of doping and performance enhancing.

While Epstein doesn’t deal with these issues, the book is good place to learn (in a non-technical way) about the scientific foundation for answering these kinds of moral and philosophical questions. For that reason alone it worth a read. But it is also quite interesting on its own terms.
Profile Image for Kirsten McKenzie.
Author 11 books238 followers
December 6, 2018
What an incredible read. Every page contains incredible insight into the world of elite athletes and DNA research. Nature or nurture? Are elite athletes born or raised? Epstein has written a stunning analysis of the research done on what makes some athletes better than others. Leg length, wing span, country of origin, parents, running to school, access to training venues, coaches, better than average eyesight. It’s a brave new world out there, and it’s an exciting time to watch developments in training regimes based on an athletes specific gene makeup.
Happy to recommend this book to anyone with an interest in sport. Easy to understand as well!
Profile Image for Ward.
107 reviews5 followers
December 23, 2017
Nice book, bit of a pointing out of all the ways genetics and hard work will affect how well you do at sports and how hard of a time we still have understanding any of it. On the other hand, I don't feel like I walked away from this book with any new insights on the matter, besides the knowledge that that it is the limit of our scientific understanding now. I did learn a bunch of examples though, so that's something?
September 22, 2019
สนุกมากครับ เป็นหนังสือที่พยายามตอบคำถามเรื่อง Nature vs Nurture ได้ครบถ้วนและทันสมัยมากๆ โดยใช้กรณีศึกษาเรื่องกีฬาหลากหลายประเภทเป็นแกนกลาง ดำเนินผ่านเรื่องเล่าสลับกับงานวิจัยที่ชวนให้ใคร่ครวญและหาคำตอบไปพร้อมๆ กัน

ชอบมากๆ ที่ผู้เขียนไม่ได้พยายามสร้างสูตรสำเร็จว่า โอเค เราไม่ต้องพยายามแล้วนะเพราะทุกอย่างอยู่ในยีน หรือโอเค ทุกคนต้องพยายามต่อไปเพราะยีนไม่มีผลใดๆ แต่เสนอหลักฐานทุกอย่างมาวางไว้บนโต๊ะ แล้วให้พิจารณาเอาเองว่าจะเอนเอียงเข้าฝ่ายไหน

แนะนำมากๆ ครับ
Profile Image for Nattapan.
1,687 reviews52 followers
August 18, 2019
Convincing and very impressive.

Although you might be able to predict the conclusion of this book, I am quite sure that you will be awestruck by valuable information supported by many empirical research anyway.
976 reviews
January 5, 2023
Listened via Audible

Loved love loved this book. It's about 10 years old at this point so would love an update on some of the stats, but so much to talk about! It is non-fiction but written in a way that is not boring at all (sometimes it's a bit scientific but just skim those parts). In the end, is it nature or nurture that makes a good athlete? I think this book proves both.
118 reviews2 followers
June 12, 2020
a really excellent examination of the nature vs nurture debate in sporting success. Innate talent vs 10,000 hours theory. Unsurprisingly, the book comes down somewhere in the middle (malcolm gladwell is still a fraud though)
Profile Image for Kerry.
775 reviews87 followers
July 19, 2015
Few people know that I am an absolute sports nut. I can watch almost any sport that I can understand and have watched some I have no understanding of--cricket, lacrosse,wrestling to name a few. What I have come to understand about my fascination is it has mostly to do with the simple wonder of the human body to do incredible things, some with training and some by accident. I've seen this in my chosen profession as well (medicine) but in sports it has more to do with planned rather than unexpected physical abilities. To me it is amazing to see athletes preform at such a high level, even hitting a precise golf shot takes an incredible number of different abilities: eye coordination, hand position, swing precision--is it in the body or the practice? Do the greats start with a special gift (gene) the rest of use lack. Is there a body type that works best for particular sports, beside the obvious, height for basketball, speed for sprinting. I was interested in finding the scientific answers to my interest. This book gave me new knowledge.

Wasn't sure I would get through the dryness or the complex bioscience of this book but the author did a great job of pulling my interest forward with personal stories of great athletes. It did lean more toward running, sprinting, cross country skiing--as those are areas where the most research has been done. This is not an easy book to read but has some great information. If you have an interest but not the endurance for the task, the chapters on body type and vision had great information--don't miss those. Really glad I read it, I'll continue to be even more fascinated with great sports feats but now with a more discriminating eye.
355 reviews22 followers
September 2, 2013
It's both nature and nurture, at least from David Epstein's point of view, and to be sure there are many other opinions expressed in this book.

Like a good writer, Epstein includes plenty of anecdotes, quotes, and stories that humanize the book and make it enjoyable to read. And he adds the occasional analogy to clarify the science ("it's both hardware and software.")

Like a good reporter, Epstein has evaluated numerous research studies to accompany his stories and support his point of view. However, for me, he over reports the studies with much too much science. Yes, it may be good to know that a particular gene is over represented in certain athletes, but I don't need to know which gene, how it was discovered, when, and by whom.

So the stories are great; the conclusions are interesting, but I'd like much of the science focused on the big picture, not the details. Then I'd more easily understand and recall the main points of the book, and I would have enjoyed it even more.

Note. Epstein seems to have successfully navigated the sports gene waters without crashing on the shore of racial outrage. I believe that's because he presents his information in a balanced, nonprejudicial way. Here (to argue against my earlier point), the sheer volume of research described is useful because that research makes it evident there are genetic physical differences among populations. So Epstein's reportorial balance and breadth of research provide insights without arousing animus (at least, I'm not aware of any).
Profile Image for Pipat Tanmontong.
109 reviews10 followers
October 3, 2019
หนังสือวิทยาศาสตร์ที่อ่านสนุกที่สุดเล่มนึง แม้เนื้อหาข้างในจะยากเอาเรื่อง
หนังสือพยายามหาคำตอบโดยเฉพาะเจาะจงว่าปัจจัยใดมีผลต่อความสามารถทางกีฬาของนักกีฬาชั้นนำที่ประสบความสำเร็จ? แล้วปัจจัยเหล่านี้นมีผลมากย้อยแค่ไหนนะ?
ผู้เขียนเปิดกว้างสำหรับทุกๆปัจจัย ไม่ว่าจะเป็น การฝึกฝน พันธุกรรม สภาพแวดล้อมทางภูมิศาสตร์ วัฒนธรรม ของท้องถิ่น
ชอบในบทสรุป2เรื่องที่ได้จากการอ่านคือ “ไม่มีคำว่าสายเกินไปที่จะเริ่มซ้อม” และ “ไม่มีตารางซ้อมแบบเดียวที่เหมาะกับทุกคน”
Profile Image for Atila Iamarino.
411 reviews4,360 followers
January 10, 2015
Bem explicado, bem escrito e abrangente. O autor consegue deixar bem claro quanto genes e treino importam para o desempenho atlético. Também sabe escolher ótimos exemplos de esportistas para ilustrar o ponto que quer explicar. Passa principalmente por performance de corrida, de curta e longa distância, natação, basquete, e com uma boa discussão sobre os genes envolvidos.
Profile Image for Book.
725 reviews134 followers
August 5, 2013
The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein

"The Sports Gene" is an enjoyable book that shares the latest of modern genetic research as it relates to elite athleticism. In the never-ending quest to settle the debate of nature versus nature, David Epstein takes the readers on a journey into sports and tries to answer how much does each contribute. This fascinating 352-page book includes the following sixteen chapters: 1. Beat by an Underhand Girl: The Gene-Free Model of Expertise, 2. A Tale of Two High Jumpers: (Or: 10,000 Hours Plus or Minus 10,000 Hours), 3. Major League Vision and the Greatest Child Athlete Sample Ever: The Hardware and Software Paradigm, 4. Why Men Have Nipples, 5. The Talent of Trainability, 6. Superbaby, Bully Whippets, and the Trainability of Muscle, 7. The Big Bang of Body Types, 8. The Vitruvian NBA Player, 9. We Are All Black (Sort Of): Race and Genetic Diversity, 10. The Warrior-Slave Theory of Jamaican Sprinting, 11. Malaria and Muscle Fibers, 12. Can Every Kalenjin Run?, 13. The World’s Greatest Accidental (Altitudinous) Talent Sieve, 14. Sled Dogs, Ultrarunners, and Couch Potato Genes, 15. The Heartbreak Gene: Death, Injury, and Pain on the Field, and 16 The Gold Medal Mutation.

1. Well-written, well-researched book. Epstein is very engaging and keeps the science at a very accessible level.
2. Fascinating topic that sports fans will enjoy. A look at elite athleticism through the eyes of science. Sports elites. I'm there!
3. Epstein does a fantastic job of skillfully handling the very sensitive topic of race and genetics. Any minor miscue and it would have derailed the book but Epstein never lets that happen and should be commended for his utmost care.
4. There are very few books on this interesting topic and this one covers multiple sports. And behind it all is the quest to find what's behind elite athleticism, "The question for scientists is: What accounts for that variance, practice, genes, or something else?"
5. You are guaranteed to learn something new. As an avid sports fan and reader, I didn't expect to learn too many new facts but I am always humbled and pleasantly surprised when I do.
6. The importance of experience in athletics. "Studies that track the eye movements of experienced performers, whether chess players, pianists, surgeons, or athletes, have found that as experts gain experience they are quicker to sift through visual information and separate the wheat from the chaff."
7. Golfers will pick up a valuable scientific tip...I'm not going to spoil it here.
8. The 10,000 hours rule in perspective. "Studies of athletes have tended to find that the top competitors require far less than 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to reach elite status. According to the scientific literature, the average sport-specific practice hours to reach the international levels in basketball, field hockey, and wrestling are closer to 4,000, 4,000, and 6,000, respectively."
9. Understanding the importance behind visual acuity and its importance in sports like baseball. "Coincidentally, or perhaps not, twenty-nine often is the age at which visual acuity starts to deteriorate and the age when hitters, as a group, begin to decline."
10. Important lessons shared, "To this day,” Woods said in 2000, “my dad has never asked me to go play golf. I ask him. It’s the child’s desire to play that matters, not the parent’s desire to have the child play."
11. Addressing the differences in gender. "Much of sexual differentiation comes down to a single gene on the Y chromosome: the SRY gene, or “sex determining region Y” gene. Insofar as there is an “athleticism gene,” the SRY gene is it." Great stuff!
12. So who was the greatest high-school athlete of all time according to ESPN? Find out.
13. The impact of the Human Genome Project as it relates to sports. The naturally fit six...
14. The science behind muscle growth. "Something that myostatin does signals muscles to cease growing. They had discovered the genetic version of a muscle stop sign. In the absence of myostatin, muscle growth explodes." A lot of good information here.
15. Discusses physical traits by sport that give the athletes innate advantages over the competition. "The height of a sprinter is often critical to his best event. The world’s top competitors in the 60-meter sprint are almost always shorter than those in the 100-, 200-, and 400-meter sprints, because shorter legs and lower mass are advantageous for acceleration."
16. A cool look at the NBA. My favorite team of all time, the 95-96 Chicago Bulls (Jordan, Pippen and Rodman). Some eye-opening facts concerning wingspan.
17. Scientific observations, "Low-latitude Africans and Australian Aborigines had the proportionally longest legs and shortest torsos. So this is not strictly about ethnicity so much as geography."
18. Race and genetic diversity. "Kidd’s work, along with that of other geneticists, archaeologists, and paleontologists, supports the “recent African origin” model—that essentially every modern human outside of Africa can trace his or her ancestry to a single population that resided in sub-Saharan East Africa as recently as ninety thousand years ago." Honestly, where would we be without understanding the grand theory of evolution? An excellent chapter, worth the price of the book.
19. Mind-blowing facts, " In an example particularly relevant to sports, about 10 percent of people with European ancestry have two copies of a gene variant that allows them to dope with impunity." Wow!
20. An interesting look at Jamaican sprinting and Kenyan long-term running. What's behind the success? "Consider this: seventeen American men in history have run a marathon faster than 2:10 (or a 4:58 per mile pace); thirty-two Kalenjin men did it just in October 2011." Say what?
21. The honest limitations of the young science of genetics, "Just as it is tough to find genes for height—even though we know they exist—it is extraordinarily difficult to pin down genes for even one physiological factor involved in running, let alone all of them."
22. Is motivation genetic? Interesting.
23. Genetic diseases. "According to statistics that Maron has compiled, at least one high school, college, or pro athlete with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) will drop dead somewhere in the United States every other week."
24. An excellent epilogue on the perfect athlete, "In reality, any case for sports expertise that leans entirely on either nature or nurture is a straw-man argument."
25. Notes and selected citations included.

1. Football is the most popular sports in America bar none but wasn't really given as much paper as I was hoping for; sure you get some stories about Jerome Bettis, Herschel Walker, head injuries and weight lifting...but not the treatment a sport of its magnitude would warrant.
2. The science is very basic and done so to reach a larger audience. Links or an appendix would have given curious readers more to immediately munch on.
3. At no fault of the author, the science of genetics is still too young to be able to answer the most demanding questions to a satisfactory level.
4. No formal separate bibliography...you have to surf through the notes.
5. Few links.

In summary, the perfect summer book. This was a page-turner of a book that provides us a glimpse into elite athleticism through the eyes of science. David Epstein provides sports enthusiasts with a scientific treat. One thing is perfectly clear...genetics is very complex and we are we are in its infancy. That being said, it's fascinating science and its increased understanding will continued to be applied to the world of sports. Epstein provides readers with an excellent appetizer of things; if you are interested in how genetics is being applied to extraordinary athletic performance, I highly recommend this book!

Recommendations: "Outliers" by Malcom Gladwell, "Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us" by Daniel H. Pink, "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg, "Subliminal" by Leonard Mlodiknow, "Running Science" by Owen Anderson, "Your Inner Fish" by Neil Shubin, "The Making of the Fittest" by Sean B. Carroll, "The 10,000 Year Explosion" by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending, "Relics of Eden" by Daniel J. Fairbanks, "Why Darwin Matters" by Michael Shermer, "Only a Theory" by Kenneth R. Miller, "The Greatest Show on Earth" by Richard Dawkins and, "Why Evolution Is True" by Jerry A. Coyne.
Profile Image for Tereza Vítková.
60 reviews1 follower
November 30, 2020
moje oblíbený quotes (bez kontextu jsou ale méněcenný):

,,Every athlete has a photographic memory when it comes to his sport."

The Matthew effect: ,,Fir to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance, but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away."

,,Every human embryo is female for the first six weeks of existence."

,,Men are twice as likely to be left-handed as women - an athletic asset in number of sports."

,,All womens world records in sprint and power events are from the 1980s, a testament to the powerful effect of male hormones (doping) on female athletes."

,,In these days of computer games, sedentary pursuits, nd driving our children to school - it´s the hungry fighter or the poor peasant who has the endurance background and the incentive to work on it, who makes the top distance runner."

,,There is no such thing as a casual jogger in Kenya, only those who run for transportation, those who are killing themselves in training and those who are not running at all."

,,Help Americans compete in distance running by donating school buses to Kenyan children.
None of Kenyan top runners offsprings excel at running, because their parents have resources and the child never has to run to school again."

,,Pain must be practiced in the first place."

110 reviews40 followers
June 28, 2017
Super informative. Covers the characteristics that help comprise excellence in various sports and the genetic traits that give rise to those characteristics. One big revelation to me was the scientific evidence that how people respond to training is genetic - I'd seen that anecdotally but it's helpful to see that in the science. Also that thing about NBA players having disproportionately long arms, even the short ones - or Kenyans more likely to have a bone structure that is conducive to endurance running. Overall a fun read too. The book is emphatic that genes alone don't make an athlete. I found myself mulling over various moments I've witnessed or been a part of in sport/athletic training - like my struggling so hard to run a mile in eight minutes in middle school while most of my friends zoomed by, or that time an eighth grader walked into our high school weightroom and bench pressed 315 lbs, or the random super-athletes at LA fitness. This book lends some insight to the enormous variance you find in any sport.
Profile Image for Agnė.
744 reviews57 followers
March 19, 2021
The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance is an extremely well-researched and carefully written popular science book that takes on the centuries-old debate of nature vs. nurture in athleticism.

I love both the sports and the genetics, so I might be a little bit biased, but I found David Epstein's examination to be thorough, levelheaded, educating, illuminating, and fascinating, while also very engaging and easily understandable.

A wide range of sports, scientific research topics, and personal anecdotes are handled with care, respect, nerdy enthusiasm, open mind, and a critical eye.

I also appreciated the afterword to the paperback edition that provided an update since the first edition of The Sports Gene. Now I wonder how things have changed since the paperback edition as it’s been a good 7 years, which is quite a long time in both sports and science!
Profile Image for Michelle Sauvageau.
272 reviews3 followers
March 22, 2020
Such a fascinating read that really makes me want to get myself genetically tested for many of the genes that were discussed! Epstein is a very talented writer and is able to make scientific research digestible to the every day person reading the book. Thanks to Mackayla for letting me talk her ear off about the things I learned 😊
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