Monday, December 01, 2008

The Sports Gene?

Born to Run? Little Ones Get Test for Sports Gene:
When Donna Campiglia learned recently that a genetic test might be able to determine which sports suit the talents of her 2 ½-year-old son, Noah, she instantly said, Where can I get it and how much does it cost?

“I could see how some people might think the test would pigeonhole your child into doing fewer sports or being exposed to fewer things, but I still think it’s good to match them with the right activity,” Ms. Campiglia, 36, said as she watched a toddler class at Boulder Indoor Soccer in which Noah struggled to take direction from the coach between juice and potty breaks.

“I think it would prevent a lot of parental frustration,” she said.

In health-conscious, sports-oriented Boulder, Atlas Sports Genetics is playing into the obsessions of parents by offering a $149 test that aims to predict a child’s natural athletic strengths. The process is simple. Swab inside the child’s cheek and along the gums to collect DNA and return it to a lab for analysis of ACTN3, one gene among more than 20,000 in the human genome.

The test’s goal is to determine whether a person would be best at speed and power sports like sprinting or football, or endurance sports like distance running, or a combination of the two. A 2003 study discovered the link between ACTN3 and those athletic abilities.

The whole thing seems like a money-making scam to me. I say scam because the entire concept discounts the notions of practice, a work ethic, and intelligence in athletics. Except for certain endeavors, like weightlifting perhaps, raw athletic ability will only get an athlete so far. Beyond that, other factors come into play to determine success. I worry that children with "good" results will face even more pressure from their sports-crazed parents to perform up to expectations.

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