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Do Genetic Tests Belong in Kids Sports?

kids and sports, genetic tests

Better sit this one out, kid, you don't have the right genes.

If your kid was predisposed to excelling at sports, would you want to know? Would you pay money to know? Would you believe the results?

Makers of genetics tests are selling their cheek-swab kits to parents who hope to learn whether their kids possess all or any of the genetic traits associated with athletic ability. Parents are paying the less than $200 for the tests so, they say, they’ll know which sports to steer their kids toward.

But doctors say some of the genes they’re testing for a also common in non-athletes.

Parents interviewed in an Associated Press article about the genetic kits say the test are no-lose. One guy’s soccer-loving daughter said that even if she doesn’t test positive for these sports genes, she won’t be deterred from her Olympic dreams: it will only mean she needs to work harder.

Which makes be wonder about the message these tests send to kids whose results come back positive: will they sit on the sidelines smoking cigarettes, figuring, eh! I was born score!

I love that the parents couch their interest in the tests as an interest in their kids, wanting to help them be their best. Can’t you do that just assuming that they’re good? Did Tiger Mom teach us nothing?

Critics of these tests say they’re actually rather unfair to kids, creating a permanent record of information about the child — without his or her informed consent — which could be used against them in the future.

I think it’s great when kids have big dreams and goals and when parents are interested in helping them achieve them. But trying to get a chemical take on whether your kid will have to work this much — or this much — to get into the Olympics comes across as desperate and overbearing to me.

Would you want to know whether your kids possess these genes? Would you even know what to do with the information?

Photo: wsilver via flickr

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