Sunday, November 15, 2015

Running Injuries? Blame Your Genes?

Chromosome by Hey Paul Studios from Flickr
All right, it's finally been proven, some people are more prone to injury than others. So says a newly published article from the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The researchers found evidence from family and genetic studies that DNA sequence variants (together with non-genetic factors) can increase your risk for tendon and ligament injuries. This is for both exercise-associated and occupational-associated acute and chronic injuries to tendons and ligaments.

Although research at this stage is still preliminary, there have been specific gene variants found (COL5A1 gene) that are less likely (58 percent less) to cause Achilles tendinopathy (degenerative change in the tendon).

A different gene (COL1A1) is associated with ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and Achilles tendon ruptures (September et al, 2009).

In fact, several other genes have been associated with injuries ranging from carpal tunnel to tennis elbow.

The common link among these genes is that they affect collagen fibrils structure. Collagen fibrils are the basic structural building block for tendons, ligaments and other connective tissue including fascia. In simple terms, some Achilles tendons are built better than others.

So what do you do with this information then? Athletes and coaches beware, especially when there are now many genetic tests marketed for self testing promising to reveal potential injury susceptibilities.

The researchers reported that such tests should be requested by an appropriately qualified healthcare professional since results need to be interpreted together with certain clinical indicators and other lifestyle factors.

Personally I'm fairly sceptical about such over the counter/ online genetic tests that you can purchase to do a self test on whether you're more prone to injury.

Will knowing that really change your training habits? As a previously compulsive competitive athlete, I trained as hard as I could handle and more without getting injured. Knowing I'm say, 10-20 percent more likely to get a tendon injury will not alter my day to day training. On the contrary, because I've been training hard for so long (previously), I know what injuries I'm prone to because I've already had them previously.

Hmmm, maybe from now I'll ask my patients whether they have a family history of tendon or ligament injuries instead. (Standard practice for Physiotherapists is asking patients if they have any family history of hypertension, heart diseases and cancer etc).


Collins M, September AV and Posthumus M (2015). Biological Variation In Musculoskeletal Injuries: Current Knowledge, Future Research And Practical Limitations. BJSM. DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-095180.

September AV, Cook J et al (2009). Variants Within The COL5A1 Gene Are Associated With Achilles Tendinopathy In Two Populations. BJSM. 43: 357-365. DOI: 10.1136/bjsm.2008.048793.

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