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Gene, injury and performance
  1. Professor Nicola Maffulli
  1. Centre for Sport & Exercise Medicine, Queen Mary, University of London


Lecture 28

The limit of each individual to perform a given type of exercise depends on the nature of the task, and is influenced by a variety of factors, including psychology, environment and genetic make up. Genetics provide useful insights, as sport performances can be ultimately defined as a polygenic trait. The physical performance phenotypes for which a genetic basis can be suspected include endurance capacity, muscle performance, physiological attitude to train and ability of tendons and ligaments to withstand injury. The translation of an advantageous genotype into a champion's phenotype is still influenced by environmental, psychological and sociological factors. Since exercise training regulates the expression of genes encoding various enzymes in muscle and other tissues, genetic research in sports will help clarify several aspects of human biology and physiology, such as RNA and protein level regulation under specific circumstances. Genetic testing in sport would permit to identify individuals with optimal physiology and morphology, and also those with a greater capacity to respond/adapt to training and a lesser chance of suffering from injuries. Ethical and practical caveats should be clearly emphasised. The current scientific evidence on the relationship between genetics and sports look promising. There is a need for additional studies to determine whether genomewide genotyping arrays would be really useful and cost-effective.

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