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DNA Testing For Athletic Ability

Cool or Not: DNA Testing For Athletic Ability

There's a new test in town, and it has me a little worried. Some parents are using a $149 home-analysis test from Atlas Sports Genetics to find out what types of sports their babies may have been born to play. The test involves swabbing the inside of the baby's mouth, and sending the swab to a lab where technicians look for variations of ACTN3, a DNA strand believed by some experts to predict particular athletic skills.

Different versions of the gene can make someone a more talented power-sports player or better suited for stamina-focused endurance sports, though unsurprisingly, there can be mixed results because we get one copy of the ACTN3 gene from each parent. Some sports psychologists and coaches are highly critical of the test and believe steering kids toward certain sports based on genetics is asking for trouble. One coach pointed out the test may measure natural talent but cannot measure an athlete's desire to succeed — just because you're good at something, does not mean you'll have the heart to achieve greatness.

Still, I can see how some parents might argue they are helping their kids by pointing them in the right direction to become accomplished athletes, by virtue of natural abilities. What do you think of this test, is it cool or not?


Join The Conversation
misshouston misshouston 8 years
So what do you do if the tests show no athletic talents? Toss the kid off a cliff, Spartan-style, and get to work making a better one? Sheesh ...
sunshinepointe sunshinepointe 8 years
It's cool to see what it says for curiosity sake but I dunno if it should ever go beyond that.
rc4480 rc4480 8 years
wackdoodle, excellent point. what makes a good athlete great is not physical, but mental stamina and ability. focus, drive, and love for the sport. something like this simply encourages crazy parents and coaches to create messed up kids.
bluesweater bluesweater 8 years
Wow, a lot of people on here are making groundless assumptions about how parents will use this information. Any information we can have about our children can only help us. Many things we can see from birth; other things we find out as they grow. Does knowing your child is a girl automatically mean you will steer her toward home ec classes and barbie dolls? Doctors can also predict height with relative accuracy when kids are in elementary. If you have a kid who is predicted to be very tall does it mean you are going to force him/her into a tireless, hated life of professional basketball? Should we hide this information from parents as well? We just have a new kind of information. It can help prepare you and I think most parents who were going to be responsible, loving parents will use the information responsibly. Most parents who were going to be overbearing monsters will use it inappropriately. But access to the information is not the problem; the information won't turn a good parent into a bad one. Maybe your kid doesn't know what sport they want to play and you have these test results so when they come to you for advice you can give them good suggestions. Parents *should* be guiding their children and helping them -- that's the job of a parent. The more information a parent has to do this the better. It doesn't have to mean you'll force them to do anything they don't want to do.
alethia037 alethia037 8 years
I am with everyone who has said children should play the sports they WANT to and are passionate about.
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
If only this were legit.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i'm on the fence about this one. there are cases where i think that genetic testing is good but this seems like a waste to me. you're not using the technology to find out something that will affect the life of your child aside from sports and activities vs. using testing to find out about illness etc.
wmoonw wmoonw 8 years
OK, IMHO, sports are one of those areas where effort put in far outweigh genetic predisposition. . . . This just seems like an excuse for parents to be over-the-top controlling.
i-heart-monster i-heart-monster 8 years
seamstress - i've got your back on that... I think it all has to do with heart. I'm not genetically predisposed to play sports, yet I was a college athlete. I wanted it, so I got it. You can learn to do things... especially with children - they can learn so much early on that genes can have virtually no effect on the power of the brain to learn and excel at various things including linguistics and sports. Don't limit them or steer them, let them choose and expose them to everything. Heck, maybe they're genetic wonders at tennis, but they can't stand it and want to be a painter - there's nothing wrong with that.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 8 years
Truthfully, I find it unnecessary. Watch the kid grow up, and you will find out. If athletic ability (or any other talents) is in his or her DNA, it will be expressed. What's the point of finding out early? Or dare I say, prematurely??
lilxmissxmolly lilxmissxmolly 8 years
I think part of the beauty of sports is self-discovery: finding out what you love, what you excel at, and what just isn't for you. taking that away takes away sports' value.
Modus-Vivendi Modus-Vivendi 8 years
Eek! Creepy.
meg21k meg21k 8 years
It would be a little weird for me but i could see how others might be interested. Im ok with it as long as it the test doesnt harm the child and the kids parents dont get too out of hand.
Stacey-Cakes Stacey-Cakes 8 years
Wow, when I was a kid, my parents encouraged me to play any sport/activity that I enjoyed and had fun doing, not just sports/activities I was gifted in, or even good at. How silly of them!
wackdoodle wackdoodle 8 years
I saw this on CNN Prime News like 6 months ago and they had professional athletes talking about this. The main point is that ability does not equal success as an athlete. You could have two parents who were the greatest athletes of their time and be an absolute klutz who cannot compete worth beans. So DNA testing for potential ability does not mean that your child will be a success much like IQ doesn't equal actual intelligence only the possible potential of the individual. More over sports are great for everyone not just those who plan on trying to make it a career or plan to compete in that activity. Any person can learn to be an excellent and successful athlete through practice and application. There are many athletes that I have met because of my nephew's competitive ice skating, who as children and teens didn't show potential to be a successful Gold Medal winning athlete or professional athlete but through hard work and dedication and practice because gold medalists. Scott Hamilton, Brian Boitano, and Kareem Abdul Jabar come to mind. My nephew is friends with Scott and idolizes Brian and has met and worked with him. And I know Kareem because he went to my middle school (years and years before me) and he would come back and visit my math teacher who was his first basketball coach - Kareem (Lou) would tell us impressionable middle schoolers that he sucked at basketball as a kid and that even though he was very tall he couldn't make a shot to save his life. That he had to work very hard everyday to learn to play the game then work even harder to be the best at the game. The thing was nothing came easy to any of these outstanding athletes and none of their parents were incredible athletes. Brian Boitano has told my nephew over and over again that everyone including skating judges told him he'd never make it to the Olympics or ever win titles let alone a gold medal. Brian believed this as a child and teen then he made up his mind to keep working hard and to not listen to the nah-sayers. that if he wanted that medal he would work to get it. He did. And in the skating world Brian's Olympic win in 1988 was a surprise to every coach and judge in California and a bit of surprise to Brian but not to his friends at the rink who saw him work his butt off for hours on end for years. When Brian went out on the ice for his long program in Alberta - he went out and told himself that he would lay his life on the ice and just give everything he had to have the skate of his life and not try to win the medal but try to make himself proud of his effort. He thought it would be the last competitive season then he'd go to school and open a restaurant with his parents. Athletic success comes to trial and error and pratice not from your genetic make up.
misskacie misskacie 8 years
Sounds like a serious catalyst for "pushy 'stage' parents attempt to live vicariously through their children, whom they start to view as potential trophies and dollar signs." No thanks; let's let the child grow and develop to make his/her own choices and paths. And let's not give him/her undue pressure in the process. Okay? Sigh. I speak with a little bitter personal experience. I am well over 6 feet tall and I stopped growing at age 11. I can not begin to say how much I resented all the adults attempting to push me into basketball and volleyball, which I did not enjoy. Just because my genes put me in a good place for it does not mean it's what I enjoy or want-- or even that I'm actually *good* at that sort of thing. I just wanted to be left to my running and bookworming. Whew! Silly vent over. :)
Francoisehardly Francoisehardly 8 years
I think that sounds dumb. Plus how would you really be sure your kid is really going to be better at something because of that? I never liked sports as a kid because the other kids would yell at me when I made any mistake in elementary school gym class. Because of that I always hated gym and how competitive people get over a stupid game. I always liked playing for fun when home without taking it so seriously. I'm not likely to push sports on my future kids. Just physical activity in general, preferably in ways that will actually be fun and make them not completely hate it.
fcseamstress fcseamstress 8 years
I just hate all these genetic tests becoming so prevalent and easily accessible! They have so much potential for abuse it's not even funny. Has anyone here seen Gattica? My husband thinks I'm crazy, but that is totally where we're headed. We've got tests for diseases (good to a certain extent... Downs Syndrome, yes; asthma pre-disposition, no), sex, hair color, eye color, now this?? Seriously, where's the line and to whom does this info belong? Call me paranoid, but we really need to watch our step with this kinda stuff...
danni2009 danni2009 8 years
In addition to the points above, it might lead to kids viewing exercise negatively because they are not genetically predisposed to be 'amazing'...they may give up before they've even started.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
Or how about we just let kids do whatever the hell sports they WANT to play, not the ones they're good at. My parents always just encouraged us to try different things and just be active. I tried basketball, my sister tried soccer, we both tried ballet dancing. Who cares if you're good, as long as you're having fun and being active?
notinthemood notinthemood 8 years
Part of growing up is learning to enjoy yourself, even if you don't win. If a kid is pushed to succeed and doesn't get that dose of sportsmanship early on, I think it'll be detrimental to their development as an athlete. Sports are supposed to be fun! And it's not like the kid is making the choice to have the test... it's the parents. I agree with Anna, that most parents who do this test just want their kids to be great athletes, not necessarily great people.
HMBowling HMBowling 8 years
This has SCAM written all over it!
anna_muffin anna_muffin 8 years
It would be okay, if it were actually accurate and if all parents were normal reasonable people. In that case it could serve as a pointer for the parents, which sport to start with, because kids usually like what they're good at. However, I'm afraid many of the parents who actually do this test expect greatness from their kids and won't let them have the freedom of choice.
Allytta Allytta 8 years
As a person, who actually enjoyed sports and was doing big tennis for 6 year as a kid, i'd like to say that it is well annoying and demeaning when trainers and coaches are serching just for the gifted kids. As they didn't see immeadiate results in me they just stopped giving a shit even though it was private school and everyone payed to be taught and noticed. Yes, big players are important, but those happen what? Once in a decade right?
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