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Genomics in rugby union: A review and future prospects

Heffernan, SM and Kilduff, LP and Day, SH and Pitsiladis, YP and Williams, Alun G. (2015) Genomics in rugby union: A review and future prospects. European Journal Of Sport Science, 15. ISSN 1746-1391

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Abstract

This article introduces some aspects of sports genomics in a rugby union context, considers the rugby-specific genetic data in the published literature and outlines the next research steps required if the potential applications of genetic technology in rugby union, also identified here, are to become possible. A substantial proportion of the inter-individual variation for many traits related to rugby performance, including strength, short-term muscle power, VO2 max, injury susceptibility and the likelihood of being an elite athlete is inherited and can be investigated using molecular genetic techniques. In sports genomics, significant efforts have been made in recent years to develop large DNA biobanks of elite athletes for detailed exploration of the heritable bases of those traits. However, little effort has been devoted to the study of rugby athletes, and most of the little research that has focused on rugby was conducted with small cohorts of non-elite players. With steadily growing knowledge of the molecular mechanisms underpinning complex performance traits and the aetiology of injury, investigating sports genomics in the context of rugby is now a viable proposition and a worthwhile endeavour. The RugbyGene project we describe briefly in this article is a multi-institutional research collaboration in rugby union that will perform molecular genetic analyses of varying complexity. Genetic tests could become useful tools for rugby practitioners in the future and provide complementary and additional information to that provided by the non-genetic tests currently used.

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