Genes, environment and sport performance: why the nature-nurture dualism is no longer relevant.

DAVIDS, Keith and BAKER, J (2007). Genes, environment and sport performance: why the nature-nurture dualism is no longer relevant. Sports Medicine, 37 (11), 961-980.

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The historical debate on the relative influences of genes (i.e. nature) and environment (i.e. nurture) on human behaviour has been characterised by extreme positions leading to reductionist and polemic conclusions. Our analysis of research on sport and exercise behaviours shows that currently there is little support for either biologically or environmentally deterministic perspectives on elite athletic performance. In sports medicine, recent molecular biological advances in genomic studies have been over-interpreted, leading to a questionable 'single-gene-as-magic-bullet' philosophy adopted by some practitioners. Similarly, although extensive involvement in training and practice is needed at elite levels, it has become apparent that the acquisition of expertise is not merely about amassing a requisite number of practice hours. Although an interactionist perspective has been mooted over the years, a powerful explanatory framework has been lacking. In this article, we propose how the complementary nature of degenerate neurobiological systems might provide the theoretical basis for explaining the interactive influence of genetic and environmental constraints on elite athletic performance. We argue that, due to inherent human degeneracy, there are many different trajectories to achieving elite athletic performance. While the greatest training responses may be theoretically associated with the most favourable genotypes being exposed to highly specialised training environments, this is a rare and complex outcome. The concept of degeneracy provides us with a basis for understanding why each of the major interacting constraints might act in a compensatory manner on the acquisition of elite athletic performance.

Item Type: Article
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Centre for Sports Engineering Research
Identification Number:
Page Range: 961-980
Depositing User: Carole Harris
Date Deposited: 01 Oct 2013 09:12
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 19:45

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