A recent study by Stanford scientists uncovered over 100 new genetic markers of which 91% have yet to be applied in Sport Genetics profiling. The study went on to state that the rate of injury was reduced by 44% in triathletes who had their genetic profile revealed to them. This preliminary study offered athletes access and insights to their genetic profile which they used to adapt their training strategies to reduce their risk of injury.
Avoiding injury is key to an athlete’s success and the occurrence of injury can impede training severely. The number of genetic markers used for sports profiling is limited by how much is known about the genes themselves and what they do.
Many research studies look at genes linked to sport injury, but the researchers from Stanford, from three separate laboratories, searched for genes associated with health and disease markers. They re-purposed disease gene markers for use in sports genetics and found over 100 that were relevant.
New markers were selected by scientific confidence rating from their use in previous studies. These genes were then used in screening a set of elite athletes recruited from the Stanford University triathlon team.
The chosen athletes were genotyped and their individual genetic profiles were discussed with experts. They were each educated about their specific nutritional and injury risk profile.
Reducing injury through sports genetics
The study set out to uncover the effectiveness of how sports genetics programs can reduce injury by informing athletes of their genetic profile.
Before the study, ten of the fourteen (71%) athletes sustained injury, but in the following year only four (33%) were injured.
All but one athlete shared their genetic profile with their coach and trainer. Three athletes, with a history of lower-leg muscle issues, were identified with a genetic risk for Achilles tendon injury. One athlete had a genetic score that indicated protection against ACL tears, whereas several others were found to be at risk. Two athletes showed an extreme risk for stress fractures, one of whom had an history of three stress fractures during their career as a collegiate runner.
Almost all of the athletes took preventative actions based on their genetic profile, and as a result reduced average injury rates by over 40%.
How disease markers were re-purposed for sports genetics
Disease markers associated with sickle-cell anemia, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, osteoarthritis (most common form of arthritis), and bone mineral density (BMD) conditions – were among the genetic markers targeted in this study. These markers were specifically chosen because of their strong links to a disease reported in other studies that could be tied to athletic performance in young athletes.
Micronutrients like vitamin D and calcium are important for maintaining healthy bones and repairing lean body mass, and these micronutrients are readily used up in regular training. One of the athletes showed a genetic risk for magnesium deficiency, and as an endurance athlete, there would be a need to replenish with an electrolyte higher in levels of potassium and magnesium.
The Impact on Sports Genetics
What Stanford researchers have shown is health-related genetic markers can also be used effectively in Sports Genetics profiling, and reduce risk of specific sports injury.
Athletigen already uses all types of research data to improve sports genetics sport profiling, and reports on similar markers in a comparable fashion.
Reports on ACL, Achilles tendon, and other injury-related markers can be found under Athletigen’s Athletics dashboard. The Vitamin D, magnesium, and homocysteine markers from the Stanford study are also reported on within Athletigen’s Nutrition portal:
Studies like the one from Stanford reinforce the effectiveness of knowing your genetic profile. This knowledge allows you to properly modify training, diet, and rehabilitation strategies based on your individual risk factors. Knowing your injury risk allows you to own your sport.