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Genes can express Injury propensity in sports: KNOW YOUR GENES

Posted by : Anusha Sunder , on Tue, Oct 12, 2021
Genes can express Injury propensity in sports: KNOW YOUR GENES

Genes can express Injury propensity in sports: KNOW YOUR GENES

One of the main threats of competitive sports is painful injuries. Athletes’ joints are vulnerable and they are exposed to frequent injuries. Genetic variations contributing to the onset of musculoskeletal injuries, particularly in tendon and ligament tissues, have been identified and these impact the athletic performance1. Single nucleotide polymorphisms are crucial in determining the susceptibility for sport-related injuries. And this insight is much needed for implementing preventive and coping strategies2.Among other options used by trainers, physicians and athletes, nutritional support tailor-made to suit the genetic makeup is also of equal importance.

Flexibility is directly proportional to ease of movement in a sport

Flexibility is the ability to move muscles and joints effectively through a complete range of motion. Below is a simple illustration of muscle, ligament and tendon & its basic functions.

Why is flexibility important in sports?

  • Performing stretching exercises before any fitness activity allows the body to become more flexible and less prone to injury.
  • Stretching after exercise is also equally important as it allows the muscles to get back to their normal form and helps in reducing muscle soreness and pain.
  • The degree of flexibility and risk for tendinopathy can be determined through genes and this insight will guide an athlete in deciding the type and duration of pre and post stretching exercises to make his fitness regimen comfortable

What is tendinopathy & how does it relate with genes?

Tendinopathy refers to painful conditions occurring in and around tendons in response to overuse. It results from an imbalance between the protective/regenerative changes and the pathologic responses that result from tendon overuse. The net result is tendon degeneration, weakness, tearing, and pain. To combat tendinopathy, there occurs expression of protective factors such as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and nitric oxide synthetase (NOS). The efficiency of these protective factors is based on the expression of their encoding genes

Let’s learn about genetic influence of tendon and ligament injuries in athletes!

1. Genes that regulate the structural integrity and normal mechanical function:

Genes like COL1A1, COL12A1 & COL5A1 encode production of various collagen fibers in tendons & ligaments, which maintains their structural integrity & normal mechanical function.

Genes associated

Gene Function

Impact of genetic variation

Gene-specific nutrients that are likely to benefit the individuals with the gene variants

COL5A1 (rs12722)9

encodes type-V collagen formation which is a minor fibrillar collagen found in ligaments & tendons, contributing to flexibility

C allele renders greater flexibility & a decreased risk for tendinopathy, whereas T allele is associated with less flexibility & an increased risk for tendinopathy

Collagen-strengthening anthocyanins, glutathione, vitamin C, Methionine, Cysteine and Taurine10,11,12,13,14,15

food sources include beetroot, pink radish, purple cabbage, broccoli, strawberries and blackberries to name a few.

Branched chain amino acids (BCAA) including leucine, isoleucine and valine stimulate collagen synthesis in the muscle16,17

Vitamin B6 & Vitamin E enhance tendon health18,19,20

pre & post exercise stretching, and random exercising of different muscle groups can also prove beneficial21

COL1A1

(rs1800012)9

Encodes Collagen type I fibrils which majorly constitute bone matrix forming strong parallel bundles of fibers in tendons & ligaments

T allele reduces risk of cruciate ligament ruptures, shoulder dislocation ruptures &Achilles tendon ruptures and G allele results in production of a weaker type I collagenwhich increasessusceptibilityfor tendinopathy.

COL12A1 (rs240736)9

 

 

Encodes production of Type XII collagen,a structural component of the ligament fibril

 T allele reduces the susceptibility for ligament tear/injury and A allele increases risk of developing anterior cruciate ligament injury by 2.4fold, especially in females.

Summary:Gene - specific nutrients and their food sources to cope with injuries COL1A1, COL12A1 & COL5A1 genes   

Collagen strengthening nutrients:  Anthocyanins, glutathione, Methionine, cysteine, taurine, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and vitamin E,these foods enhance the tendon healthpre & post exercise stretching, and random exercising of different muscle groups can also prove beneficial.

Food Sources

Vitamin C                          -        amla, broccoli, bell pepper, citrus fruits

Methionine                      -        tofu, turkey, pork

Cysteine                           -         sunflower seeds, eggs

Taurine rich foods          -         shellfish

Vitamin B6                     -        peanuts, soyabeans, pork

Vitamin E                 -         almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds

 Anthocyanins & glutathione  -   beetroot, pink radish, purple cabbage, broccoli, strawberries and blueberries.

Branched chain amino acids (BCAA) including leucine, isoleucine and valine stimulate collagen synthesis in the muscle. Sources include BCAA powders, milk, cheese and meats.

 

2. Genes that modulate the elastic and biomechanical properties of tendons and ligaments:

Extracellular matrix glycoproteins like tenascin & elastin modulate the elastic and biomechanical properties of tendons and ligaments

Gene Associated

Gene Function

Impact of genetic variation

Gene-specific nutrients that are likely to benefit the individuals with the gene variants

ELN (rs2289360)9,22

 

This gene shows association with the degree of ligament injuries. Encodes Elastin/ELN, a self-assembling extracellular matrix protein, is the major source of tissue elasticity

G allele relates to more efficient elastin function & hence requires shorter recovery time, AA genotypes suffer more severe injuries and require longer recovery times.

Vitamin A & vitamin C replenish elastin levels24

Genistein, a type of soybean isoflavone, is a phytoestrogen which supports tissue elasticity25

Gelatin rich foods including meat, bone broths, yoghurt & agar-agar maintain elastin levels26

Copper increases the activity of the enzyme lysyl oxidase, which helps in the cross-linking of collagen & elastin. Organ meat, shellfish, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds & lentils are among its sources27

TNC (rs2104772)23

 

Encodes tenascin-C which modulates the elastic & biomechanical properties of tendons & ligaments. Its expressed predominately in regions responsible for transmitting high levels of mechanical force

T allele reduces the susceptibility for such injuries, A allele increases risk of Achilles tendon injuries & rotator cuff injury.

Summary: Gene-specific nutrients and their food sources to cope with injuries ELN & TNC genes

  • Vitamin A - oily fish, cheese, eggs, carrot, apricots, pumpkins
  • Vitamin C - amla, broccoli, bell pepper, citrus fruits replenish elastin levels.
  • Genistein, a type of soybean isoflavone, is a phytoestrogen which supports tissue elasticity.
  • Gelatine - meat, bone broths, yoghurt & agar-agar, these foods maintain elastin levels.
  • Copper - increases the activity of the enzyme lysyl oxidase, which helps in the cross-linking of collagen & elastin. Organ meat, shellfish, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds & lentils are among its sources.

 

3. Genes that regulate the remodelling of collagen in tendons and ligaments:

MMP3 gene encodes matrix metalloproteinase which regulates remodelling of collagen in tendons&ligaments.

Gene Associated

Gene Function

Impact of genetic variation

Gene-specific nutrients that are likely to benefit the individuals with the gene variants

MMP3 (rs679620)9

Encodes matrix metalloproteinase which regulates remodelling of collagen in tendons & ligaments.

Aids in recovery by degrading denatured structural collagen

G allele increases the risk of Achilles Tendinopathy due to reduced MMP3 activity,G allele increases the risk of Achilles Tendinopathy due to reduced MMP3 activity.

MMPs are zinc dependent, hence zinc supplementation improves their catalytic activity28,29,30

Polyphenols, carotenoids, & flavonoids also enhance MMPs activity.

Summary: Gene-specific nutrients and their food sources to cope with injuries MMP3 gene

  • MMPs are zinc dependent, hence zinc supplementation and sources- lentils, chicken, fish, hemp seeds, tofu, mushrooms, spinach improves their catalytic activity.
  • Polyphenols like apple, orange, peach, plums, green tea,carotenoids like pumpkins, carrots, papaya, mango, peach &flavonoids like dark chocolate, onion, red cabbages also enhance MMPs activity.

 

4. Genes that influencedegeneration and regeneration of musculoskeletal soft tissues:

Degeneration & regeneration of musculoskeletal soft tissues like tendons is regulated by genes like GDF5 & IGF2.

Gene Associated

Gene Function

Impact of genetic variation

Gene-specific nutrients that are likely to benefit the individuals with the gene variants

GDF5 (rs143383)9

‘Growth/ Differentiation Factor 5’ is involved in the maintenance, development & repair of bones, cartilage and other musculoskeletal soft tissues including tendons

C allele carriers have a decreased risk for tendinopathy, whereas T allele carriers have an increased propensity for tendinopathy due to reduced expression of this gene in tendons.

Beta-palmitate present in milk improves GDF5 levels, aiding in recovery of sport-related muscle injury.31

 

Genetics plays an integral role in athletic performance and is increasingly becoming recognised as an important risk factor for injury.One of the ultimate goals is designing tailored made nutritional recommendations to improve direct and indirect factors that influences the athletic performance.  For athletes, time lost from training and competition due to injury has a profoundly negative impact on performance. Hencepersonalized nutrition aims to develop more comprehensive nutritional and supplement approach based on interacting parameters in an athlete's sport environment.

Author Bio: Anusha holds a PhD in Human Nutrition from the University of Madras, and ranks in the top 3. She has been the recipient of several esteemed awards and endowment prizes including the NSI award for consecutive years. She has also authored several research publications. Life Science, an exhaustive field where every minute innovations pile up is her consciously chosen domain of education and career. With a rich experience in nutrigenetic counselling, research data analysis, and scientific content writing, she is deeply passionate about exploring how gene-based lifestyle changes can assure good health sustenance and disease prevention in an individualistic manner. She reads extensively and draws concepts from wide ranging researches which are translated into reader-friendly documents. Such documents aim to educate people on the importance of knowing their health demands based on genetic predispositions and the need to harmonize the same with gene-specific nutritional recommendations.