That niggling injury you keep getting could be in your genes
A genetic component to injury was thought impossible, but a study done on a shoestring budget at UCT has found a link
Your running partner never gets injured, but you seem to spend half your time crocked. What’s up?
It turns out your genes may be to blame, specifically a protein called Tenascin C, which is abundant in developing tendons, bone and cartilage.
The discovery has emerged from a four-year study performed on a shoestring budget at the University of Cape Town, where 20 people – 10 from the orthopaedic clinic at the Sports Science Institute in Newlands and 10 controls from sports clubs and gyms – had their exome (part of the genome) sequenced.
Principal investigator Alison September and her colleague Andrea Gibbon identified seven variants out of 204,807 in the DNA code for Tenascin C that were associated with risks of musculoskeletal soft tissue injuries, including sore Achilles tendons and knee ligaments.
They also found a specific code within the gene for Tenascin C increased risk of these injuries.
Gibbon, an avid runner, said having access to that kind of information would help professional athletes minimise injury risks and give average individuals the confidence they needed to get exercising.
“We know that this is such a multifactorial condition, but we are looking specifically at the genetics of these injuries, asking if these individuals have a genetic profile that is different,” said Gibbon.
“If there is a pattern across their genome, that may contribute to their predisposition.”
September said the genetic variation her team had discovered could lead to sports injuries suffered because of overuse as well as cases of more sudden, acute injuries.
The project was started by Prof Malcolm Collins in the early 2000s. “At the time, with the technology available, people thought it was impossible to find a genetic component to a sporting injury. But, today, we’ve proved them wrong,” said September.
The study, published in the journal PLOS One, said large follow-up investigations would be needed to evaluate the effectiveness of genetic screening to accurately predict injury risk.
“It is plausible to assume that this information may eventually be used by clinicians to develop personalised injury reduction and prerehabilitation programmes targeted at strengthening tendons and ligaments,” September and Gibbon said.