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Genetic tests in sports medicine - many studies, little impact

Genomics, Society and Policy20128:13

Published: 15 May 2012


Genetic research in sports has a history of more than 40 years of endeavouring to find out which genetic factors can predict the performance of an athlete. With increasing knowledge of the human genome and availability of genetic testing the market of direct-to-consumer genetic tests has exploded in recent years. There are tests for genetic variants for medical and general health issues, but there are also 'lifestyle' tests, including tests for indicators for sport performance. The human gene map for fitness and performance includes hundreds of genes that play a role in cardiorespiratory endurance, muscle strength, exercise tolerance, body composition and energy metabolism. However, there is currently no evidence that genotyping an individual is superior to traditional physiological tests in predicting athletic performance.

The impact of genetic test results is much higher in certain medical conditions which are associated with significant health risks when performing competitive sport. These are generally rare inherited disorders, mostly resulting in cardiovascular dysfunction. There are major ethical issues as to whether genetic or clinical pre-participation screenings should be applied to the population in order to prevent disease or death during sport. Some of these issues will be addressed in this article.


Body CompositionGenetic TestMuscle StrengthEthical IssueHuman Gene


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Authors’ Affiliations

Institute for Human Genetics, Medical Faculty, RWTH Aachen University, Germany


© ESRC Genomics Network 2012