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Genetic Insight Into Athletic Injuries

The price of genetic testing is becoming more affordable.

A few private companies offer tests that reveal the predictive secrets of each person’s genome, with the goal of helping an individual become a better athlete.

The price of genetic testing is becoming more affordable.

Written by: Aaron Hersh

This piece first appeared in the March issue of Competitor Magazine.

It took scientists 13 years and approximately $3 billion to decipher the human genome, but now the price of genetic testing is becoming more affordable.

Information contained within an individual’s genome is no longer the exclusive domain of well-funded research scientists—it’s accessible to anyone, and perhaps of special interest to endurance athletes. A few private companies offer tests that reveal the predictive secrets of each person’s genome, with the goal of helping an individual become a better athlete.

Today, you can send a sample of your saliva through the mail to companies that will test a portion of your genome for less than the price of a half-iron race entry fee. However, the field of personal genetics is still developing and the real question is: What practical use can these tests offer athletes?

Athleticode is a genetic testing startup that strives to tell athletes which injuries they are most prone to so they can strengthen themselves against those injuries and hopefully prevent them. Athleticode’s James Kovach, M.D., says the company’s goal is to link specific genetic sequences to a predisposition toward specific injuries. Send a cheek swab through the mail to their lab and for $350 Athleticode will test five genes that have been definitively linked to ACL and Achilles tendon injury. Although these aren’t necessarily the most common running injuries, Atheticode believes there might be a link between these five genes, among others, and the injuries that most frequently hobble runners. Although the current test to evaluate innate injury risk is not very extensive, it can provide clues about the types of injuries an athlete might experience, making it a technology to watch in 2011.

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About the Author:
Aaron Hersh is the Senior Tech Editor of Triathlete magazine. Aaron writes a column every Thursday for Triathlete.com called “Ask Aaron”. To submit a question, write Aaron at Askaaron@competitorgroup.com.