A recent paper published by MDPI in the journal sports in collaboration with Muhdo sheds light on the role genetic variants have on football player injury rates and how many matches they miss during a season.

Carried out on 289 players from professional to amateur level during the 14/15 season, the paper highlights the obvious correlation between players who get injured more, playing less.

Is there a correlation?

“This means that the more injuries a player had the fewer matches they played. This is important as the cost of losing a player for matches can be significant in terms of paying for treatment and salary and the cost to rankings in a league. Interestingly, we also found that knee and ankle injuries were also highly correlated suggesting that sustaining one type of injury predisposes a player to a second type.” McCabe & Collins (2018)

Whilst this does not seem ground-breaking on its own, when combined with genetic data on the genes GDF5, AMPD1, COL5A1 and IGF2 a correlation begins to occur with the players who are injured more, play less and certain gene variants that are known to cause poor recovery, higher inflammation, collagen problems and bone mineral density issues.

Should genetic testing be used?

However, the paper does go on to state this data should be used to aid players and not be used to exclude them.

“It is important to note that although some genotypes are more susceptible to injury than others, genetic testing should not be used as an indicator of athletic performance and should not discount a potentially valuable player who is predisposed to injury. Genetic testing should be used to identify players who are prone to injury and adapt their training accordingly. In fact some of the genotypes that we have found to be associated with injury have also been shown to be associated with elite performance.” McCabe & Collins (2018)

Injuries and DNA profiling

As DNA research becomes more prevalent in fitness, nutrition and sport it is only a matter of time before all sports teams utilise this now relatively cheap method of analysis along with other more standard testing. There are already many well documented cases of football teams using DNA analysis to test players for injury occurrence and this paper backs previous research in the need to progress both scientifically and practically to keep pushing the standards of athletes.

“Overall it is clear that certain genes are linked with injury occurrence regardless of which level of soccer is played… By creating a small gene panel test it would be possible to analyse players once in their lifetime and help staff conclude on rehab methods (aggressive vs normal), rest periods for players, training intensities and can be used in a battery of other tests to help decide on player fitness.” McCabe & Collins (2018)

The paper can be read in full on the following link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29910325

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