Gene in Focus: COL1A1for Injury Risk

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Gene in Focus: COL1A1for Injury Risk

The next gene to be subject to our attention in this column is COL1A1, a gene that can play a role in determining your injury risk. COL1A1 encodes for Type-I collagen, which is one of the main constituents of collagen, a structural component found in ligaments and tendons.
The next gene to be subject to our attention in this column is COL1A1, a gene that can play a role in determining your injury risk. COL1A1 encodes for Type-I collagen, which is one of the main constituents of collagen, a structural component found in ligaments and tendons.
One of the first studies to examine the COL1A1 gene took part in Sweden, in the orthopaedic department at Uppsala University Hospital. Here, over the course of five years, 358 patients suffering from either an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL – a ligament in your knee) injury or a shoulder injury (including one unlucky person with both) were recruited and genotyped for COL1A1. The distribution of the different COL1A1 genotypes was then compared to a group of people who hadn’t suffered an ACL injury or shoulder dislocation. Within the injury group, a specific genotype was incredibly uncommon, occurring in just 0.5% of people with either an ACL injury or shoulder dislocation, compared to 4% of injury free subjects. These individuals had the TT genotype, indicating that this could potentially be protective against injury. These results have been replicated in a number of other studies, most often from a group of researchers based at the University of Cape Town under Professor Malcolm Collins. When this group examined COL1A1 genotypes between ACL injury patients and non-patients, they found no-one in the injury group had the TT genotype, whilst 5% of those in the non-injury group did.
From this, we can come to the conclusion that having the TT genotype is protective against soft tissue injuries, as that genotype is very uncommon in the groups of injured patients studied. The reason for this is that the T allele appears to increase the expression of COL1A1, allowing more type-1 collagen to form, potentially resulting in stronger ligaments and tendons. We can use this information to tell us that the TT genotype is associated with a reduced chance of injury, and the G allele with an increased risk of injury.
COL1A1 Genotype
Comments
TT
No reported associated with increased risk of ligament injuries in sport.
GT
Moderately raised risk of tendon and ligament injuries in sport. Undertake prehabilitative exercises relevant to the sport.
GG
Increased risk of tendon and ligament injuries in sport.
If you’ve got an increased injury risk, it might seem like bad news, but really it isn’t. It’s just news that we can use to improve our training programme design, and hence your performance. If you have a high injury risk, this means that you should be proactive in your approach to injury prevention, by increasing the strength of the supporting muscles, as well as range of motion if required. For example, runners have an increased risk of suffering from injuries to the Achilles tendon; to reduce this risk, they can undergo an eccentric training programme which has been shown to be very effective at reducing the changes of Achilles’ injuries. They could also work on the strength in their feet and calves, as well as ankle flexibility. Finally, they could ensure that their trainers are providing the required support, that the frequency of their running sessions is appropriate, and the surfaces they are running on are not increasing their injury risk. Overall, this injury risk information is not designed to scare you, but to give you the power to reduce your injury risk.

 

1 Comment

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