Get the key ideas from

The Sports Gene

Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance

By David Epstein
13-minute read
Audio available
The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein

The Sports Gene takes a look at the physiological traits that are beneficial in various sports, and at their hereditary background. It also examines why people in certain parts of the world have evolved in their particular way, and how this is beneficial in the realm of certain sports.

This is a Blinkist staff pick

“In comparison to the famous 10,000-Hour rule, these blinks opened my eyes to some of the other ways people become great. Plus, I had a great time talking to Epstein about the book on the Blinkist podcast.”

– Ben S, Audio Lead at Blinkist

  • Anyone who follows sports
  • Anyone who wants to understand what sport they might be naturally good at
  • Anyone who is interested in the physiology behind top athletic performance

David Epstein is a writer for Sports Illustrated, specializing in sports science. Epstein also holds a master’s degree in Environmental Science.

Go Premium and get the best of Blinkist

Upgrade to Premium now and get unlimited access to the Blinkist library. Read or listen to key insights from the world’s best nonfiction.

Upgrade to Premium

What is Blinkist?

The Blinkist app gives you the key ideas from a bestselling nonfiction book in just 15 minutes. Available in bitesize text and audio, the app makes it easier than ever to find time to read.

Discover
3,000+ top
nonfiction titles

Get unlimited access to the most important ideas in business, investing, marketing, psychology, politics, and more. Stay ahead of the curve with recommended reading lists curated by experts.

Join Blinkist to get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from

The Sports Gene

Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance

By David Epstein
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein
Synopsis

The Sports Gene takes a look at the physiological traits that are beneficial in various sports, and at their hereditary background. It also examines why people in certain parts of the world have evolved in their particular way, and how this is beneficial in the realm of certain sports.

This is a Blinkist staff pick

“In comparison to the famous 10,000-Hour rule, these blinks opened my eyes to some of the other ways people become great. Plus, I had a great time talking to Epstein about the book on the Blinkist podcast.”

– Ben S, Audio Lead at Blinkist

Key idea 1 of 8

Hereditary factors like one’s height and arm span are key advantages in basketball.

Have you ever wondered what it takes to become an outstanding athlete, like a NBA basketball player or an Olympic sprinter?

Obviously, hard work and dedication are essential. But it also helps immensely if you happen to be blessed with excellent genes, as they can give you a body type well suited for certain sports.

One of the most often mentioned and obvious physical traits that is genetically determined is height. In the industrialized world, it’s estimated that approximately 80% of the difference in people’s heights is due to their genes.

But there’s no single gene that determines height. As yet, even the best study on the topic managed to explain only 45% of the height differences among people, and even that required surveying hundreds of thousands of genetic differences. What’s more, genetic influence on other physical traits is similarly ambiguous.

What is certain, however, is that tall people are clearly advantaged when it comes to basketball. Because the basket is ten feet off the ground, the higher one’s reach, the greater his advantage. Indeed, at a professional level, this advantage is such that, right now, an incredible 17% of American men aged 20-40 over seven feet tall are in the NBA.

Height is so important in the NBA that shorter-than-average players usually need other attributes to compensate for their short stature. For example, they may have long, stiff achilles’ tendons that allow them to jump high – like Spud Webb, who at just 5’7” still managed to win the 1986 Slam Dunk Contest.

Shorter players usually also have a disproportionately long arm span, which gives them a higher reach, enabling them to for example better block shots and get rebounds. In fact, the average arm span of a NBA player is so wide compared to his height that this disproportion would normally lead to a diagnosis of Marfan syndrome, a disorder which affects the body’s connective tissue. And just like height, the skeletal structure that produces a wide arm span is also largely hereditary.

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

Key ideas in this title

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

No time to
read?

Pssst. Sign up to your secret to success: key ideas from top nonfiction in just 15 minutes.
Created with Sketch.