Can Genetic Testing Identify Talent for Sport?

Pickering, Craig, Kiely, John orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-9817-0224, Grgic, Jozo, Lucia, Alejandro and Del Coso, Juan (2019) Can Genetic Testing Identify Talent for Sport? Genes, 10 (12). e972. ISSN 2073-4425

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Elite athlete status is a partially heritable trait, as are many of the underpinning physiological, anthropometrical, and psychological traits that contribute to elite performance. In recent years, our understanding of the specific genetic variants that contribute to these traits has grown, such that there is considerable interest in attempting to utilise genetic information as a tool to predict future elite athlete status. In this review, we explore the extent of the genetic influence on the making of a sporting champion and we describe issues which, at present, hamper the utility of genetic testing in identifying future elite performers. We build on this by exploring what further knowledge is required to enhance this process, including a reflection on the potential learnings from the use of genetics as a disease prediction tool. Finally, we discuss ways in which genetic information may hold utility within elite sport in the future, including guiding nutritional and training recommendations, and assisting in the prevention of injury. Whilst genetic testing has the potential to assist in the identification of future talented performers, genetic tests should be combined with other tools to obtain an accurate identification of those athletes predisposed to succeed in sport. The use of total genotype scores, composed of a high number of performance-enhancing polymorphisms, will likely be one of the best strategies in the utilisation of genetic information to identify talent in sport.

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