Decoding the Athlete’s Genes


If you are looking for a book to fill a spot on your summer reading list, may we recommend one?

“The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance”  by David Epstein (Col’ 02).

Epstein was a middle distance runner for the Lions who grew up in the Chicago metro-area.  While he was in high school and college, he began to wonder how much of athletic talent was really derived from someone’s genes versus training hard.  Epstein shared this motivation with David Monti in an interview on

I went to college and I was just curious about [sports and genetics].  I was a distance runner and now, all of a sudden, I was running against all of these Kenyans, and noticing a similar body build, and how well they do.  I remember a guy from Iona and be in terrible shape, and work out for a month and be just trashing everybody.  I just started really to wonder about this interplay between nature and nurture.  Now, that the genetic science has come a certain distance, maybe it can actually bear on some of these questions, and figure out what you have to be born with, and what you don’t.  I just really wanted to answer my own questions.

The book presents Epstein’s findings from recent scientific research on the genetic makeup of professional level athletes across multiple sports, including basketball, baseball, long-distance running, and swimming.  A book excerpt can be found on Sports Illustrated’s website.

So far, the book has earned great reviews from many critics, including ScienceNews,, and the Wall Street Journal (note: scroll down to page C7 for review).

“The Sports Gene” is available for purchase on Amazon.

When Epstein is not busy unlocking the mysteries of DNA in sport, he is a Sports Illustrated writer where he focuses on the science and medicine of sport.  He received national acclaim for his 2007 SI article “Following the Trail of Broken Hearts“.

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