Special DNA Test That Can Find Out Kids' Sports Gene Found

by Hannah Punitha on Dec 8 2008 3:34 PM

Will your child become a champion swimmer like Michael Phelps or a runner like Usain Bolt? Find that out with the special DNA test.

Atlas Sports Genetics says its 101-pound test will predict whether a child's natural abilities tend towards speed and power sports, such as football or sprinting, or endurance sports like long-distance running or a combination of the two.

The test allows parents to take a swab from their child's mouth and then send off the sample to a laboratory to test for ACTN3, a gene found to have links with athletic success.

Atlas has highlighted the value of the test for kids under the age of eight, as more traditional physical assessments at that age are unreliable indicators of future natural talents.

"The tests should give parents some guidance on what type of sports they might want to introduce their children to," the Telegraph quoted Kevin Reilly, the Atlas president and a former weightlifting champion, as saying.

The Colorado company claims that the test can determine whether a child is likely to perform best at endurance sports (such as long-distance running and swimming), mixed endurance and power activities (such as football and cycling) or straightforward power sports (such as gridiron football, weightlifting and sprints).

The Atlas website boasts: "Finding any great Olympic champion normally takes years to determine. What if we knew a part of the answer when we were born?"

The company cites a pioneering Australian 2003 study that established a link between the breakdown of individual athletes' ACTN3 genes - everyone receives two variants from their parents - and their sporting capabilities.

However, scientific critics of the process compared the initiative to "snake oil" schemes, arguing that the ACTN3 gene is only one of hundreds that determine whether an individual has particular physical skills and talents.

And others said that the pitch by Atlas appealed to parents who would push their children too hard and obsessively and might dream that they could win a lucrative college athlete scholarship en route to a professional sports career.