UW Sports Doctor Expresses Concern About Genetic Testing for Athletic Genes

Young female basketball playerMADISON - Does your child have the genes to be an athletic superstar?


Some companies are marketing tests that purport to identify those who are genetically gifted in athletics.

Dr. Alison Brooks, assistant professor of orthopedics at University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, has written a commentary to be published March 9 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) discussing the reliability of these tests and whether or not they are appropriate for young athletes.

Brooks, who is also a physician for the University of Wisconsin women's hockey team and played soccer at University of North Carolina on an NCAA championship team with Mia Hamm, has concerns that testing may lead some parents to push their children into sports for the wrong reasons.


Other parents might discourage their children if they lack the appropriate genes, such as the currently marketed ACTN3 gene, also known as the "speed gene."

"Although the gene is found more commonly in some elite athletes, it is estimated that it predicts only about 2 percent of a person's speed and power potential," Brooks says, "and there are so many other non-genetic factors, like coaching and training that affect sports performance."

Brooks says "we need to advocate for all children to be physically active because it's good for them, not because we want them to play sports at a college or professional level."

Date Published: 03/09/2011

News tag(s):  sportsm alison brooks

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