Direct-to-consumer genetic tests should never be used on youngsters to identify athletic ability or boost sports performance, experts say.
The scientific evidence is far too weak to support use of these commercial tests, said an international panel of 22 experts in exercise, sports performance, genetics, anti-doping, injury and disease. Their statement was published Nov. 16 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
“While further evidence will undoubtedly emerge around the genetics of sport performance in the future, the data are currently very limited,” the panel wrote.
The study authors noted that despite significant advances in genomics over the past decade, there are major gaps in the ability to interpret genetic test results.
The panel looked at the availability of do-it-yourself genetic tests that purport to detect a child’s athletic talent or help maximize performance. Claims made by the companies include: “Personalize your training based on your sports genetics” and “Gives parents and coaches early information on their child’s genetic predisposition for success in team or individual speed/power or endurance sports.”
Test results are based on a sample of saliva sent for lab analysis.
The researchers identified 39 companies selling such tests, nearly twice as many as the 22 identified in a 2013 review.
The panel found that 54 percent of the 39 companies did not specify which gene sequences and variants would be tested. Among the other companies, the number of gene variants they said were tested ranged from 1 to 27.
A lack of good scientific data on which variants to test means multiple testing of variants is ineffective, the study authors said in a journal news release.
“Consequently, in the current state of knowledge, no child or young athlete should be exposed to [direct-to-consumer] genetic testing to define or alter training or for talent identification aimed at selecting gifted children or adolescents,” the statement concluded.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has more about direct-to-consumer genetic tests.