The Sports Gene Book Summary - The Sports Gene Book explained in key points
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The Sports Gene summary

David Epstein

Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance

4.3 (110 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

"The Sports Gene" by David Epstein explores the nature vs. nurture debate in athletics. He analyzes genetics and how they play a role in athletic ability, debunking the idea that success is solely due to hard work and practice.

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    The Sports Gene
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    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.

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    What is The Sports Gene about?

    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.

    The Sports Gene Review

    The Sports Gene (2013) is a fascinating exploration of the role of genetics in athletic performance and the nature vs. nurture debate. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • Offers compelling scientific evidence that genes play a significant role in determining athletic ability, challenging conventional wisdom about the importance of training.
    • Explores the stories of extraordinary athletes and examines their genetic makeup, shedding light on the complex interplay between genetics and environment.
    • Presents a thought-provoking perspective on the potential implications of genetic testing and the ethics surrounding the quest for athletic excellence.

    Who should read The Sports Gene?

    • 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

    About the Author

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

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    The Sports Gene FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Sports Gene?

    The main message of The Sports Gene is that genetic factors play a significant role in athletic performance.

    How long does it take to read The Sports Gene?

    The reading time for The Sports Gene varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Sports Gene a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Sports Gene is a fascinating and thought-provoking book worth reading. It provides valuable insights into the science behind athletic prowess.

    Who is the author of The Sports Gene?

    The author of The Sports Gene is David Epstein.

    What to read after The Sports Gene?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Sports Gene, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Range by David Epstein
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    • The Rise of Superman by Steven Kotler
    • Boost! by Michael Bar-Eli
    • The Practice of Groundedness by Brad Stulberg
    • Chasing Excellence by Ben Bergeron
    • Endure by Alex Hutchinson
    • Do Hard Things by Steve Magness
    • The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown
    • 30 Ways to Reboot Your Body by Ben Greenfield