David Epstein on the science behind athleticism

'The Sports Gene' by David Epstein
'The Sports Gene' by David Epstein
Book cover courtesy of publisher

In his latest book, "The Sports Gene," ProPublica Reporter David Epstein looks at the science behind athleticism.

While technology has helped improved athletic performance, the gene pool also plays a role.

From Epstein's TED Talk in March 2014:

Technology isn't the only thing pushing athletes forward. While indeed we haven't evolved into a new species in a century, the gene pool within competitive sports most certainly has changed. In the early half of the 20th century, physical education instructors and coaches had the idea that the average body type was the best for all athletic endeavors: medium height, medium weight, no matter the sport. And this showed in athletes' bodies. In the 1920s, the average elite high-jumper and average elite shot-putter were the same exact size. But as that idea started to fade away, as sports scientists and coaches realized that rather than the average body type, you want highly specialized bodies that fit into certain athletic niches, a form of artificial selection took place, a self-sorting for bodies that fit certain sports, and athletes' bodies became more different from one another. Today, rather than the same size as the average elite high jumper, the average elite shot-putter is two and a half inches taller and 130 pounds heavier. And this happened throughout the sports world.

Epstein joins The Daily Circuit to discuss the findings from his research.

The full TED Talk: