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Do genetics help in sports?

By Alex Goldstein

The question of genetic advantage in the field of athletics has been prevalent in the minds of athletes and sports fan since sports began to gain popularity long ago. In some sports, it’s easier to see how a physical advantage can be inherited, such as height in basketball, but in others it isn’t as easy. For example, tennis players are all heights and sizes, and not one body type is specifically better than another. But is there a gene or a mutation that makes some people just more athletic than others? Or is it hard work, determination, and maybe a bit of luck when it comes to height or build?

First of all, there are many aspects of athleticism that can be affected by genes, or so we would think. Endurance, power, and even susceptibility to injury can all affect and enhance an athlete's performance on the field. A gene variant known as ACE I/D has been linked to endurance. The normal ACE gene gives instructions for the creation of a protein called angiotensin converting enzyme, which changes angiotensin I to angiotensin II. This can influence skeletal muscle function, which is what has been linked to endurance and speed advantages. Another variant ACTN3 R/R has been linked to power. However, while there are evident links with these traits, there has been no causation proven.

Further research must be done, and intensive studies would be required to really know anything for sure, but we can be almost positive that genetics can and does affect these traits of athleticism.

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