Just over 12 months ago Bruce Suraci sent out a questionnaire to his peers on the topic of genetic testing in football.
It is a research field the Bournemouth Head of Academy Coaching and Development has been working on since before he joined the club in 2014.
His questionnaire wanted to find out if football practitioners believe genetic testing has value for prevention of injury, modifying training programs, for identification of talent and asked things like ‘how confident would you be using genetic information?’ and ‘can you see any issues between stakeholders?’.
Suraci said: “The general consensus appeared to be they think it is going to have value in designing training programs.
“But a lot of people said that they did not know how to use it, how to interpret the data so that became a big barrier to using it and that appears to be pretty much the general consensus.
“You do get some misconceptions around the potential of it at the moment, say around the Talent ID stuff. At the moment, there is definitely no place for genetic testing in talent ID, both ethically and scientifically.”
Suraci shares the predominant view regarding where football can best make use of genetic testing.
But he is ahead of the curve when it comes to working to break down the barrier to integrating genetic data into training programs.
He added: “I have been doing bits of work on it at Bournemouth since I joined in 2014.
“I have done various things with it from simple analysis to we have just looked at RT responses and looked at really basic genetic panels that had been linked to behaviour traits.
“Little studies that checked on data and created a technical skill panel based on research out there and genes associated with memory and learning which we compared to coaches grading of players.
“We looked at players that coaches were grading as technically gifted to see if the genetic panel aligns with that to see if it has some predictive ability or not. Little things like that is how it started.”
Over the past five years Suraci’s research has seen him look at genomes associated with behavioral traits and sprinting performance.
At the start of the 2019-20 season that progressed to a pilot study using genetic data as part of the development plan for a test group of players.
The intention is to use the results of the study to help build a framework which can then be rolled out to assess development plans across other age groups.
Suraci explained: “We have done some case studies this season where we have integrated the genetic data into performance data and questionnaire responses and designed the training program from that.
“We have then reviewed the training program based on the metrics.
“Eventually we want to develop a framework that can be used by football clubs to develop individual players in a more evidence based way.
“A big part of it will remain coach’s intuition but if you get the coach’s intuition, athlete’s perception and objective data metrics all aligned, then you are in a good place in terms of what you are doing.”