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Gene In Focus - Part 2: COL5A1

Posted 329 Days Ago in: Training, Genetics

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The next gene in this series is another one that appears in two separate sections – COL5A1. This gene can have an effect on endurance performance and also injury risk; but the allele that increases injury risk also improves endurance performance; one of nature’s cruel jokes.

The next gene in this series is another one that appears in two separate sections – COL5A1. This gene is interesting because it can have an effect on endurance performance and also injury risk; but the allele that increases injury risk also improves endurance performance; one of nature’s cruel jokes.

 

The COL5A1 gene encodes for a protein that is part of type V collagen, one of the main constituents of ligaments and tendons, alongside type I collagen, in which COL1A1, another of our genes that we will meet later, encodes for. What research tells us is that people will have different alleles at a specific point in this gene, which can increase or decrease their risk of injury. A study from 2009, for example, showed that those with the CC genotype of COL5A1 had a significantly decreased risk of developing Achilles tendonitis compared to carriers of the T allele. Similar results have been found in regards to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL – a ligament found in the knee) injuries, again with CC genotypes being under-represented in a group of people suffering for an ACL injury. It has also been found that those with the T allele generally have a lower range of motion, which typically means that they are less flexible. Added to this, research has shown that those with the TT genotype have stiffer tendons than those with the CC genotype, potentially contributing to this decreased range of motion. It is thought that the stiffer tendons and a decreased range of motion might potentially increase injury risk, which is why T allele carriers are at a slightly higher risk of an injury.

 

So how does this affect endurance performance? Well, it turns out that stiffer Achilles tendons tend to store and return energy better than less stiff ones, which means that in long distance running, less energy is required per step, making runners more efficient. As such, the T allele, because it increases tendon stiffness, is advantageous in long distance running events. This was shown in a 2011 study looking at an ultra-marathon event. It was found that those with the TT genotype, the type associated with stiffer tendons, were significantly faster in their finishing time than those with the CT and CC genotype.

 

What does all this mean for you? If you have a T allele, you may well respond better to endurance training, especially long distance running. You also potentially have a higher injury risk, especially compared to those with the CC genotype. Whilst this sounds like bad news, it really isn’t – being aware of this allows you to be proactive in terms of injury prevention. This might take the form of regular massage, or injury prevention techniques such as eccentric loading exercises, which have been shown to be very effective at reducing the risk and severity of symptoms of tendon injuries.

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Genetics DNA DNAFit COL5A1 Endurance Injury risk Sport injury Training

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