GENETIC PREDISPOSITION FOR SPORTS

“Are there individuals with a genetic predisposition to excel in sports?”

“Some things that were previously thought to be genetic characteristics, such as the bullet-fast reactions of Major League Baseball hitters, turned out to be really the result of practice, whereas other things, such as the compulsive drive to train, turn out to have important genetic components. So it really depends.”

“ Exercise genetics is showing that this is the same for the medicine of athletic training. No 2 people, because of their genes, will respond quite the same way to the same training stimulus.”

“The goal is to find the optimal training and exercise environment, whether it is for a sports performance or for health effects, for each person’s individual genome.”

“Some clinicians now get questions about testing for genes for athleticism, and usually this will include a gene such as the ACTN3 gene, which codes for protein found only in fast-twitch muscle fibers.”

“It is sort of sexy to test for this gene now. If you don’t have one of the so-called right versions for sprinting, you just won’t be in the Olympic 100-meter final. But that only rules out 1 of 7 billion people on earth, so it is incredibly nonspecific.”

“I think genetic testing for sports prowess should just be ignored. You are better off just seeing what the kid is good at physiologically. The best genetic tool you have for sprinting right now is a stopwatch, not the ACTN3 gene.”

“Genes that clinicians should consider talking with patients and parent about are genes that predispose people to injuries, such as torn tendons and ligaments, genes that code for collagen.”

The APOE-4 gene variant predisposes people to having Alzheimer disease, but it now looks like it is involved in all manner of recovery from brain injury.”

“We are having this national furor about brain trauma in football and, to a lesser degree, in soccer, and there is this gene variant out there that might give some risk information.”

“Scientists are making some strides in finding genetic markers that predict differences between people and their responsiveness to a particular training plan. The idea would be to be able to tell someone, “Look, you want this drop in blood pressure, and you have a set of genes predicting that you can get that with this training, or without even training that hard.”

[Is There Really a Sports Gene? by David Epstein, March 21, 2014, Medscape Medical News, Future of Genomic Medicine (FoGM) VII] [About the Author: Sports Illustrated Senior Writer David Epstein writes about sports science and medicine, Olympic sports, and is an investigative reporter for SI. His science writing has won a number of awards, including skills that allow Major Leaguers to hit 100 mph fastballs and many others.]

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