Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Genetics of Being Injury-Prone

This guy has better genes than his old man!

This article falls under the "DOH!!!" category. Of course genetics is a large factor in injuries. I guess if risks can be identified and quantified, then this would have some value. My own personal experience has been that sometimes the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. I wanted badly to distinguish myself as an athlete. I can't imagine that anyone could "want it" more. I worked very hard and learned all that I could along the way. I ate better and trained more diligently than most of my competitors and as good and hard as any. While my best efforts paid off in improved results, I found that some of my competitors could train sporadically and live on pizza and beer and still manage better results than me. I also found that I could train so hard and so often that my body would break down. My desire and pain threshold allowed me to override common sense and the ability of my body to recover. My pattern was train like crazy until an injury slowed me down, then, recover and repeat the cycle. My spirit was ready, but my body just could not handle the stress.
I'm not complaining. I learned alot along the way and was able to achieve a level well above the average. As I became more mature, I also realized that each of us does ultimately have a genetic "ceiling" that no amount of hard or smart work can defeat. However no one knows where this ceiling is until they have given it their best effort over a long period of time. There is joy in the journey and no effort is wasted.  But, we need to realize that we are not all created equal when it comes to physical durability and potential.

Researchers are beginning to understand how DNA makes some athletes more likely to get hurt.

IAN MCMAHAN FEB 20 2015, 10:30 AM ET

Injury is a fact of life for most athletes, but some professionals—and some weekend warriors, for that matter—just seem more injury-prone than others. But what is it about their bodies that makes the bones, tendons, and ligaments so much more likely to tear or strain—bad luck, or just poor preparation?

A growing body of research suggests another answer: that genetic makeup may play an important role in injury risk.

A review article recently published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine emphasizes that research on the genetics of sports injuries “holds great potential for injury prevention for athletes at every level.” The authors, from Stanford University’s department of developmental biology and genetics, believe that genetic testing also gives athletes valuable information that might increase their competitive edge.

Stuart Kim, one of the study’s authors and a professor of genetics at Stanford, says his interest in sports injuries began almost by accident. “I initially intended to study the genes associated with the large size of NFL lineman, but the athletes weren’t really interested in finding out the genetic reasons why they were so big,” Kim says. “But they were extremely interested in figuring out what injuries they were more likely to sustain.”

Genetic information can be valuable for amateur athletes, too—regardless of skill level, someone about to join a recreational basketball league or a tennis club would be well-served to know if they’re at risk of blowing out an ACL or tearing an Achilles. Each year, around 2 million adults go to the emergency room for sports-related injuries, many of them acquired during pickup games or matches in recreational leagues.

"The athletes weren’t really interested in why they were so big. But they were extremely interested in what injuries they were more likely to sustain."
Within the field of sports-injury genetics, some studies have focused on variations in the genes that control the production of collagen, the main component of tendons and ligaments. Collagen proteins also form the backbone of tissues and bones, but in some people, structural differences in these proteins may leave the body’s structures weaker or unable to repair themselves properly after injury. In a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2009, South African researchers found that specific variations of a collagen gene named COL1A1 were under-represented in a group of recreational athletes who had suffered traumatic ACL injuries. Those who had torn their ACL were four times as likely as the uninjured study subjects to have a blood relative who had suffered the same injury, suggesting that genetics are at least partially responsible for the strength of the ligament.

The same COL1A1 gene has also been linked to other soft-tissue injuries, like Achilles-tendon ruptures and shoulder dislocations. In a review article that combined the results of multiple studies on the COL1A1 gene, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2010, researchers concluded that those with the TT genotype—one of three potential variants of the gene, found only in 5 percent of the population—are extremely unlikely to suffer a traumatic ligament or tendon injury.

However, because of the vast complexity of the human genome, it’s highly improbable that a single variant within a gene can determine a person’s genetic risk for a given soft-tissue injury. Researchers agree it’s much more likely that these injuries, like complex conditions such as obesity or type 2 diabetes, are influenced by multiple genes. 

The COL5A1 gene, another one associated with collagen production, has been linked to a higher risk of injury of the ACL and Achilles tendon, as well as greater susceptibility to exercise-induced muscle cramping. A 2013 study in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found that specific variants of COL5A1 were strongly correlated with muscle cramping among runners in the Two Oceans Marathon in South Africa.

Researchers have also identified genetic markers associated with bone-mineral density, an important measure of bone strength that provides clinicians with information on a patient’s risk of fracture. One gene combination, investigated in a 2010 study in the journal BMC Genetics, was associated with a nearly four-fold increased risk of stress fractures among army recruits. A separate study, published in the Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine in 2009, found that osteoporosis in older women and increased rates of stress fractures in young women also tend to run in a family.

After a Rice University football player with sickle-cell anemia died in 2006, the NCAA began screening players for the condition.
Thus far, though, collegiate and professional sports have made only limited use of genetic testing. After a Rice University football player with sickle-cell anemia died in 2006 from complications related to exercise in the heat, the NCAA began screening players in 2010 to help those with the condition take the proper precautions. And Major League Baseball, after several high-profile instances of identity and age falsification among recruits from the Dominican Republic, began genetic testing in 2009 to verify the age of prospects in Latin America. (Some believe the MLB’s practice may violate the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, which prevents insurers and employers from considering genetics in their hiring decisions; because the NCAA does not employ its student athletes, it hasn’t faced the same criticism.)

As with other types of genetics research, some are worried that the information discovered by these tests could be used unethically—in this case, that it could lead to discrimination against certain athletes. “Assessing genetic information on injury risk should be dedicated to the benefit of the athlete or individual, not the organization,” Kim says.

But the largest market for sports-injury genetic testing may be the general public. A growing number of companies like 23andMe, Pathway Genomics, DNAFit, and Stanford Sports Genetics offer genetic tests that can tell the average consumer about his or her risk for sports injuries, including ACL ruptures, stress fractures, osteoarthritis, and spinal-disc degeneration.

Knowledge of genetics alone won't keep athletes from getting hurt. But it may, at the very least, reveal those at higher risk and help minimize future problems.  “We are still in the dawning age of genetic testing,” Kim says. “But new research is being conducted on a much greater scale that we hope will help us identify where and how genetic information can be used to avoid injury.”
And this one!

So does this one!
And her too!
And this one!

They all improved on their genetic inheritance!

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