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PeerJ. 2013 Aug 1;1:e120. doi: 10.7717/peerj.120. Print 2013.

Playing with heart and soul…and genomes: sports implications and applications of personal genomics.

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1
Center for the Integration of Genetic Healthcare Technologies, Division of Translational Medicine and Human Genetics, University of Pennsylvania , United States.

Abstract

Whether the integration of genetic/omic technologies in sports contexts will facilitate player success, promote player safety, or spur genetic discrimination depends largely upon the game rules established by those currently designing genomic sports medicine programs. The integration has already begun, but there is not yet a playbook for best practices. Thus far discussions have focused largely on whether the integration would occur and how to prevent the integration from occurring, rather than how it could occur in such a way that maximizes benefits, minimizes risks, and avoids the exacerbation of racial disparities. Previous empirical research has identified members of the personal genomics industry offering sports-related DNA tests, and previous legal research has explored the impact of collective bargaining in professional sports as it relates to the employment protections of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). Building upon that research and upon participant observations with specific sports-related DNA tests purchased from four direct-to-consumer companies in 2011 and broader personal genomics (PGx) services, this anthropological, legal, and ethical (ALE) discussion highlights fundamental issues that must be addressed by those developing personal genomic sports medicine programs, either independently or through collaborations with commercial providers. For example, the vulnerability of student-athletes creates a number of issues that require careful, deliberate consideration. More broadly, however, this ALE discussion highlights potential sports-related implications (that ultimately might mitigate or, conversely, exacerbate racial disparities among athletes) of whole exome/genome sequencing conducted by biomedical researchers and clinicians for non-sports purposes. For example, the possibility that exome/genome sequencing of individuals who are considered to be non-patients, asymptomatic, normal, etc. will reveal the presence of variants of unknown significance in any one of the genes associated with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), long QT syndrome (LQTS), Marfan's syndrome, and other conditions is not inconsequential, and how this information is reported, interpreted, and used may ultimately prevent the individual from participation in competitive sports. Due to the distribution of genetic diversity that reflects our evolutionary and demographic history (including the discernible effects of restricted gene flow and genetic drift associated with cultural constructs of race) and in recognition of previous policies for "leveling" the playing field in competitive sports based on "natural" athletic abilities, preliminary recommendations are provided to discourage genetic segregation of sports and to develop best practice guidelines for genomic sports medicine programs that will facilitate player success, promote player safety, and avoid genetic discrimination within and beyond the program.

KEYWORDS:

Athletes; Discrimination; ELSI; GINA; Genetic screening; Legal issues; Personal genomics; Privacy; Sports; Sports medicine

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