Sports Performance: Genetics Part 1
Growing up, there always seemed to be the kids in P.E. who were just naturally better at sports than others. Additionally, there were kids who seemed like they were always hurt. Genetics make up a large factor when it comes to athletic performance and recovery. Over the last few decades, research has emerged proving that athletic performance, training responsiveness, injury-related traits, and the ability to recover from a workout can be tailored down to the genetics of an individual. We have the capability to do a genetic test on individuals so that parents and coaches are able to learn more about the athlete and how to train them for optimal performance. Many parents take advantage of this test and use it to see the athlete’s weakness, therefore building them up and focusing on that area. This allows the athlete to have a better chance of success. We use DNA Sport from DNA Life. A sample report can be seen below.
Genetic testing has opened the world of personalized health care and training. We are able to assess individuals’ pre-dispositions to risk factors such as inflammation, injury, and chronic health conditions. The genetic factors we have can be altered with diet, lifestyle, and environmental changes if applied correctly.
This gene encodes for the major protein component of type 1 collagen. Collagen is found in connective tissues like tendons and ligaments. These collagen molecules will arrange themselves to form long fibrils that eventually cross with each other, forming very strong collagen fibres. The wildtype GG has a high impact. The heterozygote GT has a moderate impact and the homozygotes TT has no impact. With these alleles, we see benefits when the G allele is substituted for a T allele. When this occurs, studies show that there is increased gene expression and collagen, which leads to impact the strength of tendons and ligaments.
With the T allele, we see that it is protective against ligament injuries in sports. Keep it in mind that it is important to strengthen our bones with weight-bearing exercises. For individuals who have the G allele, they are at an increased risk for injuries. In fact, someone with a GG genotype has up to a 10 times greater risk of having an ACL rupture. We recommend that you practice basic strength conditioning, resistance training, and flexibility to help prevent damage. For more information, please refer to GeneCards, The Human Gene DataBase.
This gene encodes for the alpha-1 chain of type V collagen. Type V collagen intercalates Into the tendons and play an important role in modulating fibre diameter within the connective tissues. The wild type, CC has no impact. The heterozygote CT has a moderate impact, and the TT homozygotes has a high impact. Studies have shown that the C>T polymorphism has been linked to more soft tissue injuries like the Achilles tendin and ACL ruptures.
However, the CC genotype has been shown to have a greater range of motion and considered to be protective when it comes to injuries. It has also shown to reduce ACL injuries in females. The T allele has been associated with injury susceptibility but faster running at times. It is important that the athletes participate in regular conditioning along with flexibility. Flexibility training is a key factor in injury prevention. For more information, please refer to GeneCards, The Human Gene DataBase.
This gene encodes for Growth Differentiation Factor 5. Growth Differentiation Factor 5 is a protein that is related to bone morphogenetic protein (BMP). This is expressed in the developing central nervous system and has to do with healing skeletal, joint, and soft tissues. the wild type CC has no impact. The heterozygote CT has a moderate impact, and the homozygotes TT has a high impact. With the genotype TT, we see the most risk for sports-related injuries.
There is a reduced expression of the protein in the soft tissue for those who have the TT genotype. The T allele has also been linked to osteoarthritis and dislocation of the hip. For those who have a T allele, we recommend resistance training and flexibility training. Alternating these two methods of training will help reduce an athlete’s risk of injury and increase joint mobility. For more information, please refer to GeneCards, The Human Gene DataBase.
IL-6 is a cytokine that is secreted by T cells in the body. These stimulate an immune response to exercise and lead to inflammation in the muscles and fatty tissues. This regulates the expression of CRP. When an athlete trains, the response is controlled by these factors and depends on the intensity and duration of the workout. The GG wildtype shows no impact. the CG heterozygote shows a moderate impact, and the CC homozygotes shows a high impact.
The GG genotype has been connected to power performance based on improved muscle repair after intense exercise. The C allele however has been linked to increased IL-6 and CRP production as well as muscle damage markers. For those who have a C allele, it is critical they take the proper time to recover between training sessions. They need to focus on anti-inflammatory diets and avoid pro-inflammatory foods like junk food and fast food. For more information, please refer to GeneCards, The Human Gene DataBase.
IL-6R is a receptor that is cytokine receptor and made up of proteins. this gene encodes for IL-6R subunit, which in turn will influence IL-6 cytokine action. Il-6 induced inflammatory responses have been linked to fatigue during exercise, the ability to recover from training sessions and the potential risk of overtraining. The wild type AA has no impact. The heterozygote AC has a moderate impact and the homozygote CC has a high impact.
If you have a C allele, the changes may result in higher levels of IL-6R and cause an increase in acute inflammation post-exercise. For those who have the. C allele, it is best to increase recovery time between workouts and training. It is also best to increase anti-inflammatory foods in their diet and avoid foods that are pro-inflammatory. For more information, please refer to Gene Cards, the Human Gene DataBase.
C Reactive protein rises when there is inflammation in the body. IL-6 triggers CRP. Its tole is bind phosphocholine which is expressed on the surface of dead cells in order to activate the complement system. CRP is often checked and used as an inflammatory marker. The GG wildtype has a high impact. The heterozygote GA has a moderate impact, and the AA homozygote has no impact. In this case, the G allele has been shown with increased CRP levels. This can lead to a lower VO2 max.
For those who have the C allele, it is important to have their CRP levels checked and focus on anti-inflammatory foods in their diets. Along with this, it is key to avoid pro-inflammatory foods like items that are fried. For more information, please refer to Gene Cards, The Human Gene DataBase.
This encodes for the pro-inflammatory cytokine. It is produced and activated by macrophages. The role of TNF is in the regulation of immune cells and this is what is responsible for inducing fevers, cell death, and sepsis. If you have an intense workout, TNF levels tend to rise. The GG wildtype shows no impact. The GA heterozygote shows moderate impact, and the AA homozygote shows a high impact.
With these genotypes, we see the risk factor with the A allele. If you carry the A allele, you may experience higher fatigue after exercise and slower recovery time. For those who have this allele, we recommend that you space out the timing between your workouts. Additionally, you can add polyunsaturated fatty acids and glutamine into your diet to account for the high inflammation. Nutrition and diet are highly important and can do more to reduce CRP than exercise can. For more information, please refer to Gene Cards, The Human Gene DataBase.
The SOD2 gene encodes for free radical scavengers within the cells. It is mainly found in the mitochondria and converts superoxide free radicals to hydrogen peroxide. The mitochondria is where many oxidative reactions occur and this leads to the generation of free radicals. This can contribute to fatigue after extreme exercise and low levels of vitamin E. Long term low-intensity training. for athletes can increase the base levels of SOD2, whereas short-term bursts of activity will increase oxidative stress.
The CC wildtype has a high impact. The heterozygote CT has a moderate impact, and the TT homozygote has no impact. All types of intense exercise lead to slight muscle damage (this is how we effectively build muscle by creating small tears and our cells generating to rebuild). However, the C allele has been associated with higher oxidative stress biomarkers and those who have this genotype can be at risk for developing long-term disease if they do not consume an appropriate amount of fruits and vegetables. We recommend that low-intensity training be used for athletes who have this genotype and that they are getting a lot of fruits and vegetables in their diet throughout the day. For more information, please refer to Gene Cards, The Human Gene Database.
Considering the fact that inflammation is such a high marker when it comes to preventing injuries, a great test we use to test pair our athletes with is the food sensitivity test from VIbrant Wellness. This will show us what foods they have inflammatory responses to and how we can properly adjust their diet to be more anti-inflammatory, giving them maximum playing and recovery results. A sample of this test can be seen below:
Another test we use is the Comprehensive Cardiovascular Assessment from Genova. This test measures the CRP levels in the body to help us better understand the inflammation that is occurring. This a good baseline test to provide us with more insight based on your genes. A sample of this test can be seen below:
It is very important to take proper care of our bodies. Especially if you are an athlete. By having your genetic results, you are able to create a training plan that works for you to give you optimal performance. Additionally, you know what causes flare-ups and how to best avoid them. All of these strategies show better results when nutrition and proper recovery is implemented. Part of recovery includes seeing a chiropractor to perform adjustments. This will help to increase strength, reduce inflammation, and provide greater joint mobility. The article The Effects Of a Single Session of Spinal Manipulation on Strength and Cortical Drive in Athletes shows that muscle strength increased when chiropractic treatment was used.
To learn more about your body and possible underlying conditions that may be occurring, fill out this metabolic form below:
Being a parent myself, I love that tests like this exist. To be able to know my sons DNA to better help him chose a sport or optimally train for his sport of interest is amazing. Not only does this test allow parents to help their child but it allows coaches to adjust their training mechanisms to better reduce injury and promote optimal nutrition. Any chance I have to reduce my sons inflammation and better help his body be prepared for the next day is one I will take. -Kenna Vaughn, Senior Health Coach
Christiansen TL, Niazi IK, Holt K, et al. The effects of a single session of spinal manipulation on strength and cortical drive in athletes. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2018;118(4):737-749. doi:10.1007/s00421-018-3799-x
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