Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Youth Sports: Genetic Testing Young Athletes

The same day I wrote a tongue in cheek post about cloning athletes, I stumbled upon an Associated Press article called Could gene tests tell if kids can be sports stars. A coincidence, I think not.

Crazy Youth Sports Parents Series

In the article, I learned that parents are actually testing the genetic make-up of their kids to determine which combination of the ACTN3 gene and R577X mutation their kids have.  The combination is associated with fast versus slow twitch muscle fibers.

Supposedly, the relationship between the ACTN3 gene and the R577X mutations may determine the type of athlete your kid was born to be. Do you want to know if your kid has the genes to be an endurance athlete, a sprinter / power athlete or is your kid suited for both? A test by Atlas Sports Genetics can tell you which combination your kid has.

What the test will not tell you is if your kid will be a superstar.

~30% of the population has the sprinter / power combination
~18% of the population has the endurance combination
~50% of the population have markers for both

These are the only combinations a person can be.

There's no combination associated with super athletes and only 1% of the population are professional athletes.

In my opinion, these numbers make the test somewhat meaningless and a questionable use of money.

The Main Point

If you want athletic offspring don't test your kids after they are born it's way too late by then.

Instead, test your future spouse before you have kids. And I'm not talking about testing them with a swab on the inside of their cheek. No, you need to take them on to an athletic field, court or track and put them to the test. Think NFL combine style.

Are they big enough, fast enough and strong enough to produce future stars. Do they have the mental make up. Do the have an inner drive to work hard and a desire to win. Yes I am talking psychological testing.

You might also want to hire some scouts too because you'll need to do your due diligence. To get the best match you will need lots of research into the athletic history of potential suitors and their lineage.

When you and your staff find the right person, marry and procreate.

Of course your spouse is only one side of the equation. Maybe you're the problem and if you are considering testing your kid you probably are the problem.

If you're not athletic I would recommend adopting an athletic kid like Michael Oher. Michael Oher was the homeless boy who became an All American football player and NFL draft pick with the help of adoptive parents. His story was made famous in the movie The Blind Side. Your scouting staff can help identify potential kids to adopt too.

Seriously, even if you have the right genes and your spouse has the right genes there are so many other influencing factors that will determine if a kid will become an elite athlete.

3 comments:

  1. The idea that some test might predict where they will do well so you can make early choices fits perfectly into many parents desires to see their kids excel at something. But this is nothing more than a way to extract money from parents over the course of a kid’s childhood simply because some genetic test said they might be good at a type of sport. 

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  2. Agreed - always follow the money.

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  3. This idea makes me think twice for my future spouse. I do have to put in mind that what parents build up and genetics are will be the basis of what our kids will be in the future.

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