Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Was your kid born to be an elite athlete? Marketers of genetic tests claim the answer is in mail-order kits costing less than $200.
Some customers say the test results help them steer their children to appropriate sports. But skeptical doctors and ethicists say the tests are putting profit before science and have a much greater price tag — potentially robbing perfectly capable youngsters of a chance to enjoy activities of their choice.
“In the ‘winning is everything’ sports culture, societal pressure to use these tests in children may increasingly present a challenge to unsuspecting physicians,” according to a commentary in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association.
Scientists have identified several genes that may play a role in determining strength, speed and other aspects of athletic performance. But there are likely hundreds more, plus many other traits and experiences that help determine athletic ability, said Dr. Alison Brooks, a pediatrician and sports medicine specialist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
Brooks and University of Michigan physician Dr. Beth Tarini wrote the commentary to raise awareness.
A handful of companies are selling these tests online. In some cases, the tests screen for genes that are common even among non-athletes. As science advances, Brooks said, “My guess is we’re going to see more of this, not less.”