The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance

The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance

Language: English

Pages: 368

ISBN: 161723012X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The New York Times bestseller – with a new afterword about early specialization in youth sports.

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.

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testosterone prenatally: Hines, M., et al. (2003). “Spatial Abilities Following Prenatal Androgen Abnormality: Targeting and Mental Rotations Performance in Individuals with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia.” Psychoneuroendocrinology, 28(8):1010–26. 62 Despite the throwing gap, highly trained women will out-throw untrained men: Schorer, Jörg, et al. (2007). “Identification of Interindividual and Intraindividual Movement Patterns in Handball Players of Varying Expertise Levels.” Journal

average statements. We can all agree, for example, that men are taller than women on average. And yet, there is enough individual variation that it is easy to find a woman who is taller than many men. *An important exception is that scientists have recently found that humans who ventured out from Africa must have interbred with Neanderthals, as the DNA of modern people in North Africa and outside of Africa—but not in sub-Saharan Africa—contains a small amount of Neanderthal DNA. While

scholarly journals with a keystroke. Cooper found the famous body types study of 1968 Olympians, and he latched on to a curious side note recorded by the scientists. The researchers had been surprised to find that “a sizeable number of Negroid Olympic athletes manifested the sickle-cell trait.” That is, some black Olympians had, in one of two copies of the gene that codes for hemoglobin—the oxygen-carrying molecule in red blood cells—a mutation that causes round red blood cells to curl up in

adaptation was closed for almost a century—until the 1970s, when Nepal and Tibet began to open to foreigners. Cynthia Beall, an anthropology professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, started visiting to study Tibetans and Nepalese Sherpas who can live as high as eighteen thousand feet. To her surprise, Beall found that Tibetans had normal, sea-level hemoglobin values, and low oxygen saturation, lower than people at sea level. Few roller coaster cars, and many of them weren’t

for the top deck of the parking garage. She breathed in the thick summer air. Reed stashed her luggage in a corner and started running. Immediately, a placid calm dripped through her body. For a good hour, she ran around and around in tight circles, each lap no more than 200 meters. It certainly wasn’t because she needed the fitness. Just the previous day, Reed had finished the U.S. championship Ironman triathlon in New York City in 11 hours, 20 minutes, and 49 seconds, good enough to

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