Take Home Points on Genes and Swimming Performance
This is an excerpt from the March Swimming Science Research Review which is released on Friday March 15th.
Make sure you pick your copy up today to enhance your swimming and evidence-based coaching.
Genes and Swimming Performance
By now, everyone has heard of the 10,000 hour rule, a term coined from Dr.Ericsson's famous research and popularized by Gladwell. Unfortunately, this is mainstream view of genes and their involvement in sport (or any other area) is too simple. Dr. Tiago Barbosa broke down the guide to LTAD in swimmers, noting the role of genes for success. Genes play a role in athletic performance. The Sports Gene, a novel by David Epstein, discusses the influence of genes and performance. Epstein's piece also questions the research by highlighting what is still unknown (see his interview on Sports Coach Radio). Genes play a role in sports, but the role for each person and for each sport is likely individual.
Research on Genes and Swimming
Wang (2013) had two elite swimmer cohorts, comprising of Caucasian and East Asian subjects were analyzed. A total of 200 elite Caucasian swimmers (from Europe, American, and Russia) were sampled from 2005 – 2006 and categorized as short distance (less than 400 m; n=130) or long distance (less than 400 m; n=70). There were 116 male and 84 female Caucasian participants. East Asians comprised of short distance (less than 100 m; n=166) and middle distance (200 – 400 m; n=160). Females made up 130 subjects while the men made up 196 for the East Asian group. The East Asian group used Taiwanese and Japanese swimmers.
All the subjects underwent DNA sequencing and allele discriminatory testing.
Which Genes Improve Swimming Performance
The results suggested ACE I/D polymorphism is associated with elite swimmer status in both Caucasians and East Asians. The association is not seen in the longer-distance events in each group, but only in sprint middle distance swimmers in Caucasians and sprint distance swimmers in East Asians. ACTN3 p.R577X genotype was not significantly associated with swimmer status in these samples (unlike previous work in soccer players discussed in ACTN3 and Swimming Performance). In Caucasians ACE D allele was associated with elite status, versus the I allele in the East Asians.
The varying allele association with success highlights some confusion, yet it may simply be that the sprinters are different than the middle distance swimmers or that different ethnicities have had different genetic alterations over the years.
Also, the lack of ACTN3 association with success is surprising, as other sports demonstrate the ACTN3 is associated with greater power. This suggests swimming doesn’t rely on such power and perhaps relies more on biomechanics. Yet, there is contradictory evidence on ACTN3 and performance. Also, the classification of each swimmer's main activities is one limitation of this piece, since 50-m swimmers may have completely different genomes for success than 100-m swimmers (this applies to 200 and 400-m as well).
Practical Implication on Genes and Swimming Performance
Genetics may help predict performance in swimming, but there may be differences in elite alleles and genes between ethnic groups and sports.
- Wang G, Mikami E, Chiu LL, DE Perini A, Deason M, Fuku N, Miyachi M, Kaneoka K, Murakami H, Tanaka M, Hsieh LL, Hsieh SS, Caporossi D, Pigozzi F, Hilley A, Lee R, Galloway SD, Gulbin J, Rogozkin VA, Ahmetov II, Yang N, North KN, Ploutarhos S, Montgomery HE, Bailey ME, Pitsiladis YP. Association analysis of ACE and ACTN3 in elite Caucasian and East Asian swimmers. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013 May;45(5):892-900. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31827c501f.
Table of Contents March Swimming Science Research Review
- Perceived Effort Differs between Swimmers and Coaches | TRAINING
- Active Cool Down Decreases Lactate | RECOVERY
- Paddles Alter Swimming Force Production | PADDLES
- Individualization of Swim Suits | SWIM SUITS
- Force Asymmetry in Swimmers | BIOMECHANICS
- Swimming Minimally Increases Oxidative Stress | PHYSIOLOGY
- Snorkel Use Alters Breast Biomechanics | BIOMECHANICS
- Sex Differences in Swimmers | SWIMMING PERFORMANCE
- Genes and Performance | GENETICS
- Morning Practice Impairs Sleep | MORNING PRACTICE
- Different Pool Lengths Influence Performance | POOL LENGTH
- Salivary Proteins and Swimming Training | OVERTRAINING
- Peripheral Fatigue Limits Endurance | FATIGUE
- Bench Press Impairs Endurance Performance | TRAINING
- Fatigue and Thermal Stress | FATIGUE
- Comparing 400-m swim and 1500-m Run | SWIMMING PERFORMANCE
- Time-Trial Performance | TIME TRIALS
- Trends in Recreational Swimmers | LAP SWIMMING
- Practice Racing Breathing Strategies | BREATH TRAINING
- Oxygen Update in Swimmers | OXYGEN UPTAKE
- Decline in Performance with Age| PERFORMANCE
- Validating VO2max in nonexpert adults | MAXIMUM OXYGEN UPTAKE
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Written by G. John Mullen who received his Doctorate in Physical at University of Southern California (USC) and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS). At USC, he was a clinical research assistant performing research on adolescent diabetes, lung adaptations to swimming, and swimming biomechanics. G. John has been featured in Swimming World Magazine, Swimmer Magazine, and the International Society of Swim Coaches Journal. He is currently the owner of COR, providing Physical Therapy, Personal Training, and Swim Lessons to swimmers and athletes of all skills and ages. He is also the creator of the Swimmer's Shoulder System, Swimming Science, Swimming Science Research Review, Mobility System and the Swimming Troubleshooting System.