Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Genetic Scouting: Finding the Future Athletes with Simple Gene Testing

As the sports industry becomes increasingly more lucrative and the athlete pool becomes more competitive, teams at the highest levels are always looking fro new ways to scout talent. According to Joe Leccessi, a recruiting coach from Next College Student Athlete (a large recruiting network), some college and professional teams have already started building databases of their players' genes to compare for future comparison to prospective players. With a simple saliva sample, they can tell the potential endurance, strength, and injury potentials of the players they are interested in. The biggest gene indicator of success in sports is the expression of ACTN3, an actin-binding molecule in skeletal muscle. High expression of this protein correlates to contraction power and speed in muscles, a trait that gives athletes an extreme advantage over others that do not have as much expression of ACTN3. According to Atlas Sports Genetics president, Kevin Reilly, the ACTN3 genetics test is a better indicator of athletic performance than a physical test to determine a child's athletic ability before they turn 9. This is about the age where large European soccer clubs start recruiting children to their youth systems, and these clubs are certainly looking into genetic testing for accuracy in scouting for such a long term investment.

Before getting too caught up in genetically testing young children to find the next Lionel Messi or LeBron James, scientists are saying we do not know enough about the human genome yet to accurately and reliably assess potential athletic ability. Out of the approximate 20,000 genes in the human genome, only 200 so far have been associated with positive athletic performance. Almost all researchers, however, agree that genetics have a large impact on athletic performance, but to what extent, it is simply not known yet.

1 comment:

  1. It would be amazing to see genetic testing used this way but I agree, with the uncertainty. I do not believe this could be a reliable method for determining future athletic success, simply based on the possible environmental factors at play.