Friday, December 12, 2008

Gene testing for kid athletes

This recent article on addresses one aspect of the recent hubbub over gene testing for kid athletes: whether the $149 cheek-swab service offered by a Colorado lab actually produces useful information about a child's sports talent: a qualified maybe, according to Stephen Roth, the University of Maryland sports scientist interviewed for the article.

Not addressed - doubtless because it's less a question of science than human nature - is why. Why seek out the test?

What do you do with the information once you have it? Tell a kid who loves field hockey, has friends who love field hockey, has a wonderful field hockey coach, that she ought to be a softball catcher? That it's a gene thing?

Yank a kid out of a rec soccer league where she's perfectly happy, surrounded by her perfectly happy buddies, and put her in a new, more competitive program so that she can develop to her full genetic potential?

Parents make life decisions for their kids all day every day. As they should. Where they'll attend school. Whether green vegetables must be eaten with dinner. There's no rule that compels us to have a voice in those parts of our children's lives in which they are perfectly able to decide for themselves, however. We don't know any better than they do which sports they'll enjoy more, develop a passion for. Which is really the point of playing sports in the first place, especially when you're a kid, isn't it? A genetic test is worthless in helping make such assessments.

I applaud the scientists/entrepreneurs behind the novel gene-testing lab for their business acumen. Nice going. You've tapped into a goldmine. Every six years, you'll have millions more parents lining up for your service.

Maybe these anxious, ambitious moms and dads even will get something of value for their $149. Frankly, I doubt it.

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