Purpose of review: To summarize the existing literature on the genetics of athletic performance, with particular consideration for the relevance to young athletes.
Recent findings: Two gene variants, ACE I/D and ACTN3 R577X, have been consistently associated with endurance (ACE I/I) and power-related (ACTN3 R/R) performance, though neither can be considered predictive. The role of genetic variation in injury risk and outcomes is more sparsely studied, but genetic testing for injury susceptibility could be beneficial in protecting young athletes from serious injury. Little information on the association of genetic variation with athletic performance in young athletes is available; however, genetic testing is becoming more popular as a means of talent identification. Despite this increase in the use of such testing, evidence is lacking for the usefulness of genetic testing over traditional talent selection techniques in predicting athletic ability, and careful consideration should be given to the ethical issues surrounding such testing in children.
Summary: A favorable genetic profile, when combined with an optimal training environment, is important for elite athletic performance; however, few genes are consistently associated with elite athletic performance, and none are linked strongly enough to warrant their use in predicting athletic success.