The Sports high quality Gene: Inside the Science of online sale Extraordinary Athletic Performance online

The Sports high quality Gene: Inside the Science of online sale Extraordinary Athletic Performance online

The Sports high quality Gene: Inside the Science of online sale Extraordinary Athletic Performance online
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The New York Times bestseller – with a new afterword about early specialization in youth sports – from the author of Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World.

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?

 


In this controversial and engaging exploration of athletic success and the so-called 10,000-hour rule, David Epstein tackles the great nature vs. nurture debate and traces how far science has come in solving it. 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.

Review

“I can’t remember a book that has fascinated, educated—and provoked—me as much as The Sports Gene. Epstein has changed forever the way we measure elite athletes and their achievements.”— Malcom Gladwell

“Clear, vivid, and thought-provoking writing that cuts through science anxiety for rank-and-file sports fans.”

Bonnie Ford, Senior Writer, ESPN


“Many researchers and writers are reluctant to tackle genetic issues because they fear the quicksand of racial and ethnic stereotyping. To his credit, Epstein does not flinch.”

The Washington Post 


“Epstein’s rigour in seeking answers and insights is as impressive as the air miles he must have accumulated . . . his book is dazzling and illuminating.”

The Guardian


“Few will put down this deliciously contrarian exploration of great athletic feats.”
Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)


“The narrative follows Mr. Epstein’s search for the roots of elite sport performance as he encounters characters and stories so engrossing that readers may not realize they’re receiving an advanced course in genetics, physiology, and sports medicine.”

Christie AschwandenThe New York Times 

“An important book . . . The Sports Gene is bound to put the cat among the pigeons in the blank-slate crowd who think that we can all be equal as long as we equalize environmental inputs such as practice.”

Michael Shermer, The Wall Street Journal


“This is the book I’ve been waiting for since the early 1960s. I can’t imagine that anyone interested in sports—particularly the fascinating question, ‘How do the best athletes become the best?’—will be any less enthralled than I.”

Amby Burfoot, (1968 Boston Marathon Champion), Runner''s World 
 

“A must-read for athletes, parents, coaches, and anyone who wants to know what it takes to be great.”

George Dohrmann, author of Play Their Hearts Out

About the Author

David Epstein is an award-winning investigative reporter at ProPublica, and was previously a senior writer at Sports Illustrated. He earned All-East honors on Columbia University’s varsity track squad, and has a master’s degree in environmental science.

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4.6 out of 54.6 out of 5
1,025 global ratings

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Top reviews from the United States

Brian LaRocca
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Deep Dive into Atheltic Success
Reviewed in the United States on July 5, 2018
A great addition to the nature vs nurture debate, this book focuses on specific differences in genetics to analyze how material these effects are on athletic performance. The first third of the book starts a little slow but the reader is well advised to stay with it.... See more
A great addition to the nature vs nurture debate, this book focuses on specific differences in genetics to analyze how material these effects are on athletic performance. The first third of the book starts a little slow but the reader is well advised to stay with it. Ultimately, the author concludes that a mix of genes, body types and hard work lead to gold medal performance.

The three real strengths of this book are 1) the fascinating examination of how pronounced high achievement clusters around certain ethnic groups 2) how different body types lead to sport specific excellence and 3) how well the author intertwines science with sports narrative to make a very entertaining read.

Examples of 1: In every Olympics since 1980, every finalist in the 100 meters has had West African ancestry. The author hypothesizes that this achievement is due to an adaptation that has mutated the ACTN3 gene to defend against malaria by limiting hemoglobin. This creates an environment great for sprinting but poor for long distances. Or, for long distance running, 17 American men have ever run a marathon in less than 2:10 while 32 Kalenjin men accomplished that mark in October 2011 alone.

2: Kalenjin boys are two inches shorter than Danish boys yet have longer legs creating a better pendulum effect when running long distances. Interestingly, it is thought that long and thin body types are optimal for low latitude, hot and dry environments since it allows for better cooling. Swimmers tend to be taller than sprinters but have shorter legs which allows the body cavity to act as a canoe in the water. In the 2010 NBA season, only two players had shorter arms than their height and the average arm length to height ratio was an abnormal 1.063.

3: Jerome Bettis had his nose broken during a game, had it patched up by having cotton balls inserted in his nose and then had those cotton balls propelled into his stomach after sustaining a vicious hit. Dennis Rodman was let go from his job as an airport janitor and then cleaning cars at an Oldsmobile dealer before a very fortuitous growth spurt.
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David Warren
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The title is a puzzle
Reviewed in the United States on September 20, 2018
The title implies that there may be a "sports gene" (whatever that combination of words might mean), but the book is serious reportage of the interaction of some kinds of inherited characteristics (presumably expressions of genes) and training that seems to take advantage... See more
The title implies that there may be a "sports gene" (whatever that combination of words might mean), but the book is serious reportage of the interaction of some kinds of inherited characteristics (presumably expressions of genes) and training that seems to take advantage of them. The first quarter of the book is the most informative and thought provoking. The middle third looks like it might make a very good 200 page book about Kenyan and Ethiopian distance runners, and the book more or less staggers across the finish line with a bunch of random case studies. I discovered many new concepts and was entertained about 3/4 of the time, but guys, there is NO "sports gene" discussed or claimed in the book. Maybe a question mark at the end of the title would improve a buyer''s understanding of what the book contains.
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Michael Carroll
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Extraordinary
Reviewed in the United States on September 17, 2014
This book is subtitled “Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance.” In a word, the book itself is extraordinary. I have had a long interest in mostly all sports, have participated in many, and refereed basketball for many years. I have seen every level of... See more
This book is subtitled “Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance.” In a word, the book itself is extraordinary. I have had a long interest in mostly all sports, have participated in many, and refereed basketball for many years. I have seen every level of ability and am drawn to stories of human performance, endurance, and physical improvement. I have seen enormous talent and am particularly intrigued by those who excel at the highest levels. Thus, I was inclined to find this work interesting. I found it to be even better than anticipated. Epstein captivated me with his anecdotes, analysis of clinical studies, and superb writing. I wholeheartedly endorse his work.

Epstein marvelously explains complex genetic processes and their effect on physiology while simultaneously discussing the influence of culture and environment on elite performance. Nature and nurture deftly described. Examples of each influence and their interplay abound, such as Albert Pujols’ inability to hit a woman pitching underhand; the trainability of a young Jim Ryan who couldn’t make his junior high track team yet became the first sub-four minute high school runner in a few short years; the remarkable sprinting of Jamaicans and the comparably astounding endurance of Kenyan and Ethiopian runners. These are just a few of the many fascinating performers highlighted in the book.

On the nature side, the author reports on the genetic research that reveals the role of genes and resulting physical capacities and/or weaknesses in areas such as visual acuity, muscle growth, limb length, fast and slow twitch muscles, aerobic capacity, oxygen usage and efficiency, energy efficiency based on body structure, testosterone, doping, and several others.

In respect to nurture, Epstein reports on studies describing the effect of geography, altitude, family, income, poverty, culture, motivation, drive, the 10,000 hours practice concept, etc. In every instance of performance there is a confluence of factors from both nature and nurture, the precise amount of each varying with individuals and being practically impossible to tease out. Researchers, however, continue to make new discoveries and fortunately there is a David Epstein reporting on and explaining the implications of this complex work.

While some gene mutations can enhance performance significantly , other mutations, as is well known, cause disease. The boundary line between these vastly different outcomes is not always or automatically clear. Epstein addresses this topic with feeling and candor as he describes sudden heart disease in young athletes, one of whom was a teammate and close friend. He also elucidates some of the genes implicated in brain insult along with injuries that result from damaged ligaments and tendons.

I had never read anything by David Epstein previously. His reporting of difficult scientific material was so clear, instructive and eminently readable that I will easily and eagerly reach for his next effort.
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Reid McCormick
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
maybe practice does not make perfect...
Reviewed in the United States on August 9, 2019
So allow me a moment to brag. Among my brothers, I was the most gifted athlete. I made the varsity baseball team my sophomore year and by the end of the season, I was regularly in the starting lineup. Now here’s the chicken-egg question: Was I better because I practiced... See more
So allow me a moment to brag. Among my brothers, I was the most gifted athlete. I made the varsity baseball team my sophomore year and by the end of the season, I was regularly in the starting lineup. Now here’s the chicken-egg question: Was I better because I practiced more than my brothers or did I practice more because I was better?

Obviously, I believe the former, but after I read The Sports Gene, I question if this is true.

How much of our athletic ability is in our DNA and how much can we attribute to hard work? As a meritocratic society, we love rewarding hard work and stories about perseverance. However, this book challenges that thinking. Training has very little physical influence on abilities. You can train your lungs to be more productive, but that training doesn’t match the already superior lung capacity of your opponent.

When I read this book I was frustrated and relieved at the same time. I was frustrated because I felt like all my energy training in sports was useless, but I was also relieved because I realized that I never really had the capability of playing professional baseball.

This is a great book that marries to the subjects of sports and science perfectly.
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Garrett Chase
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
This book is a fascinating look at the nature/ nurture ...
Reviewed in the United States on July 7, 2018
This book is a fascinating look at the nature/ nurture debate that has been occurring throughout sporting history. Epstein does a superb job displaying arguments from both sides and allows the reader to establish their own views based upon the research currently available.... See more
This book is a fascinating look at the nature/ nurture debate that has been occurring throughout sporting history. Epstein does a superb job displaying arguments from both sides and allows the reader to establish their own views based upon the research currently available. A must-read for any sport science fan out there!
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Rasheed
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Settle the Debate of Nurture v. Nature
Reviewed in the United States on August 1, 2015
I first learned of this book from Paul Harvey''s syndicated radio spot. I was so intrigued by the topic because of my own athletic background (as paltry as it may be) and my avid interest in sports. I wanted to know what this book had to offer to the argument of nurture... See more
I first learned of this book from Paul Harvey''s syndicated radio spot. I was so intrigued by the topic because of my own athletic background (as paltry as it may be) and my avid interest in sports. I wanted to know what this book had to offer to the argument of nurture vs. nature.

David Epstein does a fantastic job digging into the argument and unearthing qualified evidence to support both sides. He remains objective and professional throughout the entire treatise. In the 280 or so pages he spans the globe, spans the sports landscape and spans the genetic map to find out what makes superior athletes superior athletes. He interviews scientists, authors, professors, trainers and athletes. He references research from many different scientists and researchers to support their claim of genetics or environment or history or other. I''ve never had such a thorough lesson in genes and gene mutations.

But don''t let the content intimidate you or scare you into believing that this book is drab and reads like a text book. It is very interesting and uses a somewhat storytelling style to convey the facts, opinions and anecdotal evidences. It was very interesting to read how certain genes were found in certain athletes or how poverty or lack thereof can contribute to athletics. Poverty and the absence of facilities and training has hindered some nations and wealth has hindered others! Yes, when you have cars, plenty of food and video games with no need to walk to school and no interest in running because there is no need to--then your nation will lose runners.

It was great to read the different hypotheses, their evidence and their conclusions. I think David did a very objective and fair job in presenting everything there was to present. Even the conclusions he presented in a very non-biased way and leaving them open for the reader. Ultimately there are so many factors that go into being a superior athlete that no one thing can be pointed to but it won''t stop us from trying to find out.
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Shawn Klein
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Engaging and Illuminating Work
Reviewed in the United States on June 11, 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... See more
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.
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Owl
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Becoming the Best: Passion & Some Amazing Genes
Reviewed in the United States on September 14, 2013
Outside, Hawaii Ironman competitors are churning up the ocean, almost outrunning cars, and doggedly bicycling 110 miles through scorching fields of blackened lava as they practice for the competion. Why do they do this? Do the consistent winners have some special genetic... See more
Outside, Hawaii Ironman competitors are churning up the ocean, almost outrunning cars, and doggedly bicycling 110 miles through scorching fields of blackened lava as they practice for the competion. Why do they do this? Do the consistent winners have some special genetic bonuses? If so, what? Or have they more passion, determination, and practice, practice, practice? Are both the passion and the capacity genetically influenced? Or both environmentally shaped?

Readers of David Epstein''s "The Sports Gene" will get the latest scoop on what answers we now have to these questions about elite human athletes----and for Iditarod sled dogs and race horses, too. Laced together by scores of fascinating, sometimes heart-rending stories, Epstein examines what we know --and what we do not know, and what is conflicting evidence---about the roles of what we''re born with (nature) & what we are like (often nurture).

Readers can expect considerable detail. For example,

"Actually, genes have been identified that appear to alter one''s risk of blowing out a knee.....People with a certain mutation in the COLIA1 gene have brittle bone disease and suffer fractures easily. A particular mutation in the COLIA1 gene causes Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which confers hyper-flexibility..."

Though technical, "The Sports Gene" is wonderfully readable. The human stories are vividly told, the 18 chapters can be read in any sequence, and Epstein skillfully (as would be expected from a senior writer of an eminent sports magazine) weaves science and sports knowledge together. Further many of the questions such as influences of nationality, geography, gender and race one might ask about nature/nurture are discussed thoroughly.

Reader Alert: Understanding statistical concepts such as variability (statistical), central tendencies and "regression to the mean" are helpful in following the reasoning in much of the research. What is there seems sound, statistically speaking. However, there is no glossary or appendix explaining these terms at adequate length. Readers less familiar with statistics can still get a lot out of "The Sports Gene" but should be aware of this.

Highly---very highly---- recommended! The last chapter, "The Gold Medal Mutation," may be particularly inspiring for the elites and probably for us all!
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Top reviews from other countries

Edgars
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 3, 2018
Very well written, full of facts, just could not stop reading it!
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Paul D. Stevens author of "Survival Fish Harvesting"
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Usefully extends Gladwell''s "Outliers" in the sports realm.
Reviewed in Canada on August 8, 2019
A fascinating look at high-level performance in sports and why it happens in a wide range of activities. Epstein has summarized the research current when he wrote the book and explained it in a way that is thoroughly accessible. His chapter by chapter list of notes and...See more
A fascinating look at high-level performance in sports and why it happens in a wide range of activities. Epstein has summarized the research current when he wrote the book and explained it in a way that is thoroughly accessible. His chapter by chapter list of notes and citations is 33 pages long which I appreciate. Many of the topics he examines bear further investigation. In particular myostatin inhibition for those losing muscle mass due to chronic illness or aging and the work with follistatin. Highly recommended. Looking forward to diving into his latest book, "Range."
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Richard Chartrand
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
fascinating reading
Reviewed in Canada on September 6, 2014
Fascinating not only from the standpoint of elite athletes but also for the rest of us to both have more realistic expectations and to realize that different training methods while perhaps not making us elite athletes may be significantly more or less beneficial to us as...See more
Fascinating not only from the standpoint of elite athletes but also for the rest of us to both have more realistic expectations and to realize that different training methods while perhaps not making us elite athletes may be significantly more or less beneficial to us as individuals regardless of how well or not they work for others. I believe also that this book is a reminder that if you have a genetic pre disposition for certain diseases such as heart problems, we shouldn''t think we can dodge that genetic bullet because of watching how we eat or exercise, but that we can perhaps, delay the onset, reduce the severity, improve the odds of survival and speed up recovery if we do have an incident. Even if we are not successful in any of these, simply improving the quality of life that we do have is a worthwhile goal in itself
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Hannah Anderson
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Best Book!
Reviewed in Canada on February 23, 2020
I love this book! It is so amazing! I personally got the paperback but hardcover is recommended if you are consistently travelling/bringing it in bags. Highly recommend this book to anyone who loves learn about sports science and just how humans work in general. I have read...See more
I love this book! It is so amazing! I personally got the paperback but hardcover is recommended if you are consistently travelling/bringing it in bags. Highly recommend this book to anyone who loves learn about sports science and just how humans work in general. I have read this book like 5 times and I get something out of it every time. Great, great read!
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Catherine Robertson
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
This book was a good read from A to Z
Reviewed in Canada on July 3, 2016
This book was a good read from A to Z. The information shared in the book was in an area that previous to reading this book I literally had no idea that that knowledge and information was out there. This could have been written in a manner that would''ve been as they say...See more
This book was a good read from A to Z. The information shared in the book was in an area that previous to reading this book I literally had no idea that that knowledge and information was out there. This could have been written in a manner that would''ve been as they say "as dry as a popcorn fart", thankfully the manner in which it was written was very readable and enjoyable.
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The Sports high quality Gene: Inside the Science of online sale Extraordinary Athletic Performance online

The Sports high quality Gene: Inside the Science of online sale Extraordinary Athletic Performance online

The Sports high quality Gene: Inside the Science of online sale Extraordinary Athletic Performance online

The Sports high quality Gene: Inside the Science of online sale Extraordinary Athletic Performance online

The Sports high quality Gene: Inside the Science of online sale Extraordinary Athletic Performance online

The Sports high quality Gene: Inside the Science of online sale Extraordinary Athletic Performance online

The Sports high quality Gene: Inside the Science of online sale Extraordinary Athletic Performance online

The Sports high quality Gene: Inside the Science of online sale Extraordinary Athletic Performance online

The Sports high quality Gene: Inside the Science of online sale Extraordinary Athletic Performance online

The Sports high quality Gene: Inside the Science of online sale Extraordinary Athletic Performance online

The Sports high quality Gene: Inside the Science of online sale Extraordinary Athletic Performance online

The Sports high quality Gene: Inside the Science of online sale Extraordinary Athletic Performance online

The Sports high quality Gene: Inside the Science of online sale Extraordinary Athletic Performance online

The Sports high quality Gene: Inside the Science of online sale Extraordinary Athletic Performance online

The Sports high quality Gene: Inside the Science of online sale Extraordinary Athletic Performance online

The Sports high quality Gene: Inside the Science of online sale Extraordinary Athletic Performance online