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Genetic Testing and Injury Response: Keeping Clients Active

Genetic Testing and Injury Response: Keeping Clients Active

Genetic predispositions can influence a client's ability to exercise safely and effectively. Conveniently, genetic tests can inform clients of many risk factors they carry, even some related to injury response.

DNA Testing for Injury Prevention

Injury risk is an important factor in physical activity. When you understand your clients’ risk factors, you can design the most optimal plan for them. Lifestyle genetic testing provides information on a client’s weight loss ability, exercise response, nutrition utilization, and recovery needs.

Genetic testing for injury prevention becomes advantageous at 30 years or older. Age 30 is generally the peak of bone density, then bone breakdown rapidly increases. Musculoskeletal injuries start to arise at a faster rate through physical activity and exercise. Female clients remain at a higher risk for injury. Thinner and more brittle bones paired with certain hormonal reactions increase their chance for osteoporosis.

Genetics play a role in governing concussion risk in athletes as well. Certain genes assist in repairing the brain, nerve cells, uptake of nutrients and deposit of nutrients. Genomics provide biomarkers for a client’s risk of concussion and recovery rate. This helps tailor programs to inflammatory responses. It enables you as the trainer to design a recovery program.

Some people suffer more than others when it comes to recovery. Each client experiences different levels of muscle soreness. Learn more here on the role genes play in DOMS.

How Genes Impact Athletic Injury Response

Genetic factors that contribute to athletic injury response include the following:

  • Levels of muscle mass and muscle fiber type
  • Oxygen and insulin utilization
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Mental and physical foundations  

Genetic testing provides information on systemic inflammation, injury risk, and sleep needs for athletes. When applied to programming, these factors determine the type of warm-ups and cool downs needed. They also help allot the correct amount of rest days.

Genes like ACE and ACTN3 influence physical performance phenotypes. These genes relate to how injuries occur in the body. Understanding these genes helps you prescribe the right activities for your client to excel.

Some of the most common athletic injuries include ACL tears, ankle sprains, concussions, and shoulder injuries. Concussions, including spinal cord concussions, occur most often in contact sports. Compression on the spinal cord results in brain injury where the cervical cord becomes impaired. Traumatic brain injury can be a result of repetitive brain injury or spinal cord concussions. Most injuries result in soft tissue being damaged. 

Proteins and growth factors determined by genes drive the repair process for injuries. A sequence of DNA referred to as SNP, or single-nucleotide polymorphism, gives insight on a person’s recovery abilities. This sequence is different for each client, which is why some athletes recover more quickly than others. 

Genetic testing helps determine mutations clients have. As a trainer, this helps you prepare for a client who is more prone to a certain disease or injury. Gene therapy is an approach to replacing mutated genes or altering them to prevent anything worse.

How to Use Genetic Testing to Improve Injury Response

Testing genes helps clients address major health risks including bone strength. Genes tested regarding bone mineral density are:

  • SPTBN1
  • MEPE
  • SLC25A13
  • LRP5

Examining these genes helps you determine a person’s bone mineral density and risk of bone fracture.

If a client presents a “normal” genotype, then bone fracture risk and mineral density is average. They are not at a high risk for fracturing bones. This excludes them from having to focus solely on strength training.

An “above average” genotype, tells us a client is at a higher risk for fractures. If a client is below the average bone mineral density, they need to focus more on strength building exercises.

Pay close attention to clients’ exercise response. Encourage them to do more than just average.

High risk for stress fractures and bone breaks comes with an “above average” genotype. Clients who are at a high risk can experience life-threatening issues.

Information like this helps you identify dietary and lifestyle factors that can help or hurt a client's goals. Lifestyle adjustments are part of an effective treatment plan.

4 Coaching Guidelines for Genotype Results

  1. Ensure clients receive adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D
  2. Ensure clients consume high amounts of protein 
  3. Implement the correct amount of exercise to strengthen and protect the body
  4. Include resistance training to build stronger muscle and bone

Avoid treatment plans that include high-impact exercise, alcohol consumption and short warm-ups. Weak bones force the body to use ligaments and tendons. You want to use the muscle system as much as possible. 

The goal is to keep our clients out of pain and in good health. Provide the right treatment based on genetic results. Aim to keep clients from having to rely on clinical medicine. Clinical settings are daunting, so being able to provide clients results and solutions through genetic testing goes a long way.

Pros and Cons of Using Genetic Testing to Improve Injury Response

The biggest advantage genetic testing provides us is knowing each client's ability to bounce back. Athletic ability to recover is one of the most important aspects when discussing genetic testing to improve injury response. Injury is inevitable and happens to all client’s in some form. Become equipped and prepared to help them recover quickly and effectively.

Preemptive genetic testing is a popular topic in genomic medicine. A routine doctor’s checkup consists of monitoring blood pressure, cholesterol, and other tests. Preemptive genetic testing can help determine genetic risk factors if incorporated into the checkups. This helps clients become proactive instead of reactive.

Genetic testing does not predict an athlete's future success. However, it can help trainers help clients reach their genetic potential. This can happen through the development of proactive injury prevention and recovery techniques.

Check out ISSA’s DNA Based Fitness Coach course and learn more on how genetic testing results influence a client's program. Learn how to translate injury response and recovery results into proper program design. 


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