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10/18/2011

Genetic Testing for the Injury Prone

Professional soccer teams (football to the rest of the world) are using high-powered science to give them a competitive edge. The most recent venture into the world of professional sport and science involves an “unnamed Premier League club” [that] has commissioned Yale University scientists to genetically test its players and attempt to identify genetic indicators that can serve as a warning sign to whether an athlete is prone to injury.” According to Bleacher Report, scientists claim that there are more than 100 genetic factors linked to being prone to injury. Teams will use these genetic markers to determine which players on their roster are most likely to get hurt.

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Genes for weak ankles or that predict those more likely than most to tear an ACL? Sounds pretty far fetched to me. But the motivation is obvious….or is it? This technology could be used to help identify those players who require extra preventive care, longer warm-ups and cool-downs and for whom trainers can pay greater attention to their physical health. Or this technology could also be used as a way for franchises to cull their rosters, let go potentially injury-prone players, or even prospectively screen for those least likely to have to be benched for injuries during a given season.

If the former reason is the drive behind employing this technology, then this is science and sport at its very best. Using advanced technologies to keep players healthy and prevent injury is a huge step forward for sport. However, if such technology is used to discriminate against those with certain genetic profiles that potentially increase their injury risk I say shame on you “unnamed Premier League club” for employing science to give your team (but not your players) a cutting edge on the pitch.

Summer Johnson McGee, PhD

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