Does your child have a sports gene?
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
CREATED Nov. 15, 2012
Reporter: Alexis Fernandez
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Speed, strength and discipline -- those are some of the skills needed to become a star athlete.
But is there more to it and can children be put on a path to reach this level of success?
For less than $200 and two cheek swabs, you can find out.
A handful of companies are now selling a take home sports test online that looks for a gene called ACTN3, which scientists say can determine how athletic you are.
Atlas Sports Genetics based in Colorado is one of those companies.
"The DNA test is possibly just one piece of the puzzle that can (be) used by the parent to see -- really see -- where there child may or may not excel," said Mike Weinstein, a spokesperson for the company via Skype.
The test looks at variations of the ACTN3 gene to see whether your child is a sprint or endurance athlete.
He said it's about giving kids -- as young as 1-years-old -- a head start.
"To really become a unique Olympic athlete, the date often shows that you need to be training for 20-plus years," he said. "By that time, you've graduated high school (and) that clock may have expired by then," he said.
Bradley Marston of Bountiful, Utah, bought a test back in 2009 for his daughter, Elizabeth, now 12.
"I knew that she was already a good athlete, yet I just kind of wanted to see what the science was out there, seeing how well it coordinated to her athleticism," he said by phone.
Marston said the results of the test were in line with his daughter's soccier skills, but it was only one tool in the box to her success.
"If they don't have that positive reinforcement, then I don't think it matters what your DNA is because you haven't nurtured that young precious child enough," he said.
But not everyone agrees with the intentions of the test.
Dr. Robert Erickson, a pediatric geneticist with the UA Steele Children's Research Center said it gives parents false hope.
"Genetics is not at a place where we can make predictions from what your genes are, at least not predictions that are very meaningful, compared to environmental," he said.
Erickson said support and education play a big roles.
"Children are going to become really good at something that they love, and they learn to love it because their parents love it... going to be good at it because they spend many hours on it, and they will only spend many hours on it because there parents are spending the time with them doing it," he said.
But even those behind the test agree it's only an indicator, not the final answer.
No genetics test can measure an athlete's passion, dedication and determination.