The potential role of genetic markers in talent identification and athlete assessment in elite sport
School of Medical and Health Sciences / Exercise Medicine Research Institute
In elite sporting codes, the identification and promotion of future athletes into specialised talent pathways is heavily reliant upon objective physical, technical, and tactical characteristics, in addition to subjective coach assessments. Despite the availability of a plethora of assessments, the dependence on subjective forms of identification remain commonplace in most sporting codes. More recently, genetic markers, including several single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), have been correlated with enhanced aerobic capacity, strength, and an overall increase in athletic ability. In this review, we discuss the effects of a number of candidate genes on athletic performance, across single-skilled and multifaceted sporting codes, and propose additional markers for the identification of motor skill acquisition and learning. While displaying some inconsistencies, both the ACE and ACTN3 polymorphisms appear to be more prevalent in strength and endurance sporting teams, and have been found to correlate to physical assessments. More recently, a number of polymorphisms reportedly correlating to athlete performance have gained attention, however inconsistent research design and varying sports make it difficult to ascertain the relevance to the wider sporting population. In elucidating the role of genetic markers in athleticism, existing talent identification protocols may significantly improve—and ultimately enable—targeted resourcing in junior talent pathways.