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Genetics of Athletic Performance

  1. Bing Yu,
  2. Ronald J Trent

Published Online: 17 JUN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0022400



How to Cite

Yu, B. and Trent, R. J. 2010. Genetics of Athletic Performance. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. University of Sydney and Department of Molecular & Clinical Genetics, Sydney Medical School (Central), Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown, New South Wales, Australia

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 17 JUN 2010


Athletic ability is considered to be a complex genetic trait involving the interaction of genes with the environment. An understanding of the genetics of human performance is being sought in a number of research studies using laboratory and computer-based strategies. Ultimately, an in-depth understanding of how genes influence human performance has potential for use in talent search programmes and perhaps predicting those who might be predisposed to particular injuries. Many genes have now been identified through association studies to have a possible role in athletic performance but most remain to be confirmed through functional studies. Interest is also moving to novel modes of genetic inheritance including epigenetics and copy number variations. Despite being at the beginning of our understanding of how heritable factors influence athletic performance, there is considerable optimism that the newly developed genomic technologies will identify important genes.

Key Concepts:

  • Athletic performance is a complex trait involving the contribution of many genes and environmental factors as well as yet to be defined gene–gene and gene–environment interactions.

  • Genetic association studies are used for gene discovery of complex traits. However, this approach is limiting in terms of identifying small multiple effects or the environmental components.

  • Although current knowledge of the genetics of athletic performance is in its infancy, a number of genes are starting to provide insight into molecular mechanisms likely to be involved in athletic performance.


  • complex trait;
  • athletic performance;
  • heritability;
  • gene–environment interactions;
  • association study;
  • trainability;
  • EPAS1;
  • ACE;
  • ACTN3;
  • epigenetics