Review of “The Sports Gene” by David Epstein

The Sports Gene

In his well- researched and informative narrative “The Sports Gene”, David Epstein gives us insight into the long waged dispute between nature and nurture as it relates to athletics. In his work, we begin   with  the premise of writer  Malcolm Gladwell  and his “10,000 hr theory” ( Outliers)- all things are possible (athletic and otherwise)with 10, 000 hrs of meaningful practice and experience. We are then provided examples of talented people who have achieved great athletic prowess and achievement without much practice at all.

We learn that the reaction time of a major league baseball player is not much better than the average person, while demonstrably possessing exceptional visual acuity ( many in the 20/8 range)

Perhaps the most interesting sections deal with   racial differences  between African ( both West and East Africa) and the rest of the planet and how these differences may explain certain superiorities in the running sports. He explores the concentration of talent within Trewaly Parrish, Jamaica ( Home of  Osain Bolt , Victoria Campbell- Brown and other top sprinters) He develops the theory of researchers in  the relationship between malaria immunity, hemoglobin paucity and fast twitch muscle development, In a fascinating thread on how these factors interact within a West African population where malaria was and is a constant threat.

Epstein then moves on to East African distance running where scientific muscle study (fast vs slow twitch)seems to have less impact on performance than does body type ( narrow hips and thin lower extremities), combined with the economics of the entire region ( the necessity of long -term movement in a mountainous , cattle raising region and society)

This is an interesting,  well -written book  which will  certainly serve the curiosity of all those who  have ever wondered about athletic talent.


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