Anorak News | Liverpool Balls: Sturridge, Sterling And The Caribbean Slave Gene Problem

Liverpool Balls: Sturridge, Sterling And The Caribbean Slave Gene Problem

by | 30th, October 2014

LIVERPOOL Balls: Daniel Sturridge says his injuries could be down to genetics. He tells TalkSport:

“I’ve been unfortunate this season to pick up injuries. Maybe it’s my body type and hereditary…  My uncle Dean had a lot of muscle problems when he played, uncle Simon the same, and my dad. Maybe it’s the Caribbean vibes. [I have] fast-twitch muscles, I am more vulnerable to muscle injuries. As to whether I will be one of the best player in Europe or the world, for me, as long as I continue to work hard everything will take care of itself.”

Is he right? If he is, will Caribbean-born Raheem Sterling be similarly afficted? Was Liverpool’s Jamaican-born star John Barnes so injury prone? Are black footballers more prone to muscular injuries than white players?

And what are the muscle types?

Slow twitch muscle fibres are good for endurance activities like long distance running or cycling. They can work for a long time without getting tired. Fast twitch muscles are good for rapid movements like jumping to catch a ball or sprinting for the bus. They contract quickly, but get tired fast, as they consume lots of energy.

Jorge Zuniga, an assistant professor in the Department of Exercise Science at Creighton University, tells us:

“A study done in the mid-1970s took two groups of high-level runners – one group with 70 percent slow-twitch muscle fibers and the other with 85 percent slow-twitch – and had them run a 10K. On average, the two groups performed equally well. Fiber type is only a percentage of your performance. That percentage is approximately 40, as some studies have shown.”

But is it all genetics with Sturridge?

…although fiber types are probably very important, diet, training type, mental attitude and rest are ultimately deciding factors.

Ah, rest. Sturridge should compare notes with Raheem Sterling.

But might there be another factors?

The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine noted in July 10, 2011:

Vitamin D deficiency has been known to cause an assortment of health problems, a recent study being presented at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s (AOSSM) Annual Meeting in San Diego today, suggests that lack of the vitamin might also increase the chance of muscle injuries in athletes, specifically NFL football players.

“Eighty percent of the football team we studied had vitamin D insufficiency. African American players and players who suffered muscle injuries had significantly lower levels,” said Michael Shindle, M.D., lead researcher and former Hospital for Special Surgery resident now a member of Summit Medical Group.

Or another theory:

Jamaican geneticist Dr Rachael Irving said: ‘There was not much oxygen on slave ships so they had to use whatever they had to survive.’ Dr Herb Elliott, doctor to the Jamaican Olympic team, added: ‘Only the most aggressive and fiercest slaves ended up in Jamaica.’

The great Olympian Michael Johnson opined:

“Difficult as it was to hear, slavery has benefited descendants like me – I believe there is a superior athletic gene in us.”

In the Times,  Sir Roger Bannister said:

“I love watching people like Usain Bolt. The West Africans, of course, have an inbuilt advantage. Having been transported [as slaves] to the West Indies, only the toughest endured. They have astonishing muscle composition with those fast fibres and superior genes.”


The difference between fast-twitch and slow-twitch fibers can, indeed, determine whether a runner is more suited for short or long distances. The devastating consequence comes when geneticists attempt to attach particular kinds of muscle twitch fibers to different racial groups, a theory that was brought into popular conversation just days before the start of the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 with a Runner’s World cover story titled “White Men Can’t Run.” With a solemn Carl Lewis pictured, executive editor Amby Burfoot aimed to answer “why black runners win every race from the sprints to the marathon,” arguing that there is a geological divide between West African and East African muscle-twitch fibers that explains why some black athletes, Kenyans, had endurance while African-Americans excelled at shorter distances.

While many bought into the West versus East argument, readers of Sports Illustrated did not. In response to a December 1997 cover story, “Whatever Happened to the White Athlete?,” which featured a small sidebar titled “Is It in the Genes?,” readers answered “he’s coaching” and “he moved on to become a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer,” understanding that an examination of white privilege and the economics of a racially unjust society should be the center of any conversation regarding the perceived predominance of black athletes in some sports.

Genes matter…

Posted: 30th, October 2014 | In: Liverpool, Sports Comment | TrackBack | Permalink