DNA test claims to predict child's athletic gifts

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by BRIAN NEW / KENS 5

NWCN.com

Posted on May 24, 2011 at 1:02 PM

Does your child have what it takes to be a star athlete? 

For $150, some say a new DNA test will let you know.

Six-year-old Brandon Neely of San Antonio agreed to take the test.

Neely is 44 inches tall and weighs 46 pounds. 

He is also the quarterback for the Northeast San Antonio Colts.

"He's not big now, but I think he is going to get much bigger,” said his father and team coach, Charles Neely.

As with most six-year-olds, determining whether Neely will be an elite athlete 15 years from now is like converting a fourth and long.

However, a Colorado company, Atlas Sports Genetics, has come up with a genetic test that it says can predict a child's natural athletic strength.

The way it works is simple.

Swab the inside of a child's mouth to collect a DNA sample, then send the sample off to a lab to test the gene ACTN3.

Scientists say the ACTN3 gene is responsible for developing fast-twitch muscle fibers.

The results of the test come back with one of three outcomes.

The first shows an advantage in speed and power sports like football.

The second indicates more of a mix of speed and endurance, which would be ideal for sports like basketball.

The third possible outcome of the test indicates your child's strengths may lie in endurance sports, such as long-distance cycling.

Dr. Alberto Cordova, an expert in athletic development at the University of Texas-San Antonio, has his doubts about the test.

"You always have to be cautious of the results of one assessment," he said.

Cordova said no one gene can predict athletic performance, and he worries that some parents may take the results and push too hard in one sport and limit development in the others.

"Yes, there have been a few exceptions -- Tiger Woods, the William sisters -- but those are the few exceptions in the whole wide world,” Cordova said. “The younger they are, the better it is to have a variation of sport skills."

Atlas Sports Genetics operations president Nat Carruthers said limiting the number of sports a child participates in is not the intention of the test.

"Obviously, we have taken a lot of criticism for it," Carruthers said. “What this helps you do is basically understand what is going on for your body, and you can potentially train smarter."

Neely’s test revealed the six-year-old may be better suited for the hardwood than the gridiron, but his father said the results really don’t matter.

"If he likes to play it and he is enjoying himself, then he should be out there,” he said.

 

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