Testing services are popping up that claim to be able to determine what aspect of athletics  your child is most likely to excel in by examining a gene known as ACTN3. Atlas Sports Genetics is one company that offers such a test, they have given the test the moniker “Atlas First”. GATACCA anyone?

From their website:

Doing any type of performance based sport talent identification testing is very difficult below age 6 due to developmental levels of motor skills, strength and eye-hand coordination.  Atlas First looks at only genetic markers, specifically the presence of ACTN3.  Studies have found that individuals having the variant in both copies of their ACTN3 gene may have a natural predisposition to endurance events, one copy of their ACTN3 gene may be equally suited to for both endurance and sports/power event, neither copy of their ACTN3 gene may have a natural predisposition to sprint/power events.  Knowing this information may be helpful, not in eliminating choices for sport activities but adding exposure to a host of team or individual sport events that may come easier to a young athlete.

Sounds official, but many in the scientifific community are skeptical.

Michael White, writer of the blog Adaptive Complexity, and  postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Genetics and the Center for Genome Sciences at the Washington University School of Medicine says:

The reason this test is not a good predictor of your child’s athletic potential is this: the effects of almost any genetic variant you have depends on the context – dozens or possibly hundreds of other genetic variants in your genome. You may have the RX combination of ACTN3 variants, but whether you are a great sprinter almost surely depends on variants in many other genes (and of course environmental factors). With a ‘bad’ combination of other genes, your ACTN3 RX genotype may be meaningless, and in fact you may be a better distance runner than sprinter.

The Body Warranty wave tells us that people want and expect more from their bodies than ever before and thanks to science and technology we are getting it. But when the very human desire to reach our maximum potential is imposed on children that can barely walk, talk and much less express a desire to run the 100 meter hurdles we have to wonder if we are beginning to cross the line from the  human desire excell to an unhealthy predisposition to succeed at any cost and imposing that on our children. No test will give a child the discipline and support nedded to become a professional athlete and it certainly will not help them develop a love for a sport or desire to play.

We agree with White: Just DON’T do it.

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