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Genes and super athletes: What we know

Olympic swimmer

What makes Olympic athletes so good? Are they better runners/swimmers/pole vaulters because they were blessed with different genes than the average Joe and Jane? That's the question -- a timely one, given the recent start of the Rio games -- explored by Fast Company today. In her piece, writer Christina Farr discusses what scientists know about the role of nature and nurture in the development of top athletes (spoiler alert, courtesy of a Pennsylvania bioethicist: "There is no super-athlete gene") and outlines related research here at Stanford:

Some scientists have chosen to focus instead on leveraging genetics to better understand injury risk. For a young person starting out in sports, that could make or break a career...

Stanford University's Stuart Kim [PhD] says he has been intrigued by this area since 2008, when he embarked on a study using 23andMe's data to spot genetic differences between 'super big super strong people, and normal people.' Long story short, he didn't find much. But he did get to know many athletes, who told him about how they were desperate to avoid getting hurt.

Kim now studies potential genetic markers that suggest a higher risk of a specific sports injury. 'The idea is to find DNA markers that can tell athletes what sorts of injuries they might have,' he says. That includes things like stress fractures, Achilles tendon ruptures, and rotator cuff injuries.

The full piece is worth a read.

Previously: Superathletes sleep more, says Stanford researcherStudy shows men, rather than women, may be more prone to ACL injuries and What role do genetics play in athletic performance?
Photo by The USO

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