With a test for sports gene, overbearing parents can get an early start

Sometimes I joke about adopting a teenager. I imagine myself showing up at the adoption agency with a stop-watch around my neck and a tape measure on my belt, dragging prospective dependents onto the lawn to time them in the 40 and measure their wingspan. I'd never do it, of course. Too much paperwork. But when you're built like me -- like a human Mini Cooper whose engine light never goes off -- you don't hold out hope of your natural child being miraculously gifted with superior athletic genes.

Unlike me, many normal-sized parents seem to spend their kids' early years looking for hints of future greatness (and earnings), and trying to determine which sport their kid should specialize in. And a Boulder firm is trying to make it even easier for them to be overbearing and annoying.

A lengthy story in Sunday's New York Times says Boulder-based Atlas Sports Genetics is offering $149 tests that, according to the firm, can predict which types of sports at which a child may be genetically conditioned to succeed:

The process is simple. Swab inside the child's cheek and along the gums to collect DNA and return it to a lab for analysis of ACTN3, one gene among more than 20,000 in the human genome.

The test's goal is to determine whether a person would be best at speed and power sports like sprinting or football, or endurance sports like distance running, or a combination of the two. A 2003 study discovered the link between ACTN3 and those athletic abilities.

Of course, doctors quoted in the story raise all sorts of questions about the test's ability to predict anything meaningful, not to mention the suspect logic of trying to pigeonhole a kid into one sport at a young age. (The story cites a mother who, after being told of the test, asks, "Where can I get it and how much does it cost?" Her son is two years old.)

But when it comes to parents pushing their kids in sports, logic doesn't usually fit into the equation. It's a safe bet Atlas will see a spike in business in the coming weeks. Open wide, kids. -- Joe Tone

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