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Premier League club tests players' DNA

24 October 2011
Appeared in BioNews 630

An unnamed Premier League football club has had DNA tests carried out on its players to determine which of them may be susceptible to injury. The tests were carried out by leading molecular geneticist and assistant professor at Yale University School of Medicine Dr Marios Kambouris, who was told neither the name of the club nor the identities of the players.

Dr Kambouris told the Sunday Times: 'I have no idea which players they were but there were good genes in there, things which would positively affect their performance, such as their ability to have better aerobic respiration, which would give them more stamina on the pitch'.

The tests, which were carried out last year, provided a DNA profile of around 100 genes associated not only with susceptibility to injury, but also with improved performance. Swabs were taken from the players' mouths and their DNA was placed on a biochip, which had been coated with the mutated genes for which they were being tested. If the players' genes carried the same variations, they linked with those already on the biochip. By scanning them with a laser beam scientists were able to read the players' genetic profile and assess their risk of injury.

According to the Sunday Times, the tests were requested by officials at the club after British researchers identified genetic variations associated with an increased risk of a ruptured tendon, a common footballing injury.

Professor Nicola Maffulli, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine at Queen Mary, University of London, found that mutations in collagen gene COL5A1 were associated with looser connections in the ribbon-like structure that supports the tendon, which results in a less stable tendon.

While genetic profiles could help managers reduce their players' chances of injury through better-informed training schedules and squad selection, there are also fears that the information could be used to identify and freeze out players most prone to injury, or weed out potential players before they sign up for clubs.

Professor Maffulli said: 'It may be really unfair to have a child who likes football, who may be told he will never make it because he has the wrong set of genes'.

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