Prof. Korkut Ulucan: "We have the largest archive in terms of genetic information in sports"

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The science of genetics, which has made great progress in recent years, touches our lives more and more every day. It provides guidance not only in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, but also in the development and nutrition of athletes and the creation of ideal training programs. The first data on the genetic structure of Turkish athletes were obtained within the scope of the 'National Sports Genome Project' that Prof. Korkut Ulucan from Üsküdar University Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics has been working on since 2014. Prof. Korkut Ulucan: "In fact, I can say that we have the genetic infrastructure suitable for football according to the data we obtained.". Pointing out that we have the potential to be successful in all sports, Ulucan added that we have the largest archive in terms of genetic information.

Üsküdar University Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics Prof. Korkut Ulucan from, who is known for his sports genetics studies, informed on the 'National Sports Genome Project' they have been working on since 2014.

The basis of success in sports...

Prof. Dr. Ulucan gave the example of the fact that Türkiye is the 2023 European champion in women's volleyball and Germany in basketball and stated that the foundation of every success was laid years ago and that the program was followed consistently for many years.

"Let's do the training that suits our genetic structure and the sport we enjoy"

Emphasizing that very valuable studies have been carried out in the field of sports genetics, geneticist Prof. Ulucan said that "We have carried out many studies on this subject from the first day. There is a misconception in people that 'let's do sports that are suitable for our genetic structure'. What we are working on here is 'let's do the sport we enjoy, let's do the training that suits our genetic structure to be more successful'. Since 2014, we have gathered our work under the roof of the 'National Sports Genome Project'. Our goal is to better guide talented athletes in this geography."

“We have the potential to be successful in all sport branches”

Stating that the geography we are on has a very heterogeneous genetic structure, Prof. Ulucan said that "The land we are on has been exposed to migration routes for years. Therefore, we think that different populations have taken gene samples. With such genetic diversity, we need to achieve much more sustainable success not only in volleyball, wrestling, weightlifting and basketball, but also in all sports such as athletics, boxing, football, swimming and tennis. We deserve it, and other than that, we have this potential. As long as we are well organized. Let us be able to do it together with the participation of disciplines without excluding each other from the branches of science and without trying to come to the forefront. We provide the necessary genetic support with more than enough, we need to provide even more."

We have the largest archive in terms of genetic information...

Prof. Ulucan stated that they did not only work with football players within the scope of the project, but also with athletes from different sports branches, and continued his remarks as follows:

"We have perhaps the largest archive in terms of genetic information in such diverse groups of athletes. We have separated sports genetics studies into 4 main categories, such as analyzes related to athletic performance, analyzes related to sports nutrition, analyzes related to the prevention of non-impact injuries, and psychogenetic factors that determine the concentration of athletes. In recent years, we have added genetic factors related to talent development to this group. To date, we have published more than 25 graduate theses and more than 50 articles on this subject.".

"Our biggest con is that footballers do not take care of themselves"

Prof. Ulucan said that "In fact, I can say that we have a genetic background suitable for football according to the data we obtained” and stated that the combinations of genes that support both aerobic and anaerobic physiology in the study groups are higher than the others. Prof. Ulucan continued his remakrs as follows: "We can perform appropriate training models and position selections in terms of muscle structure and physiological structure. In terms of training science, our coaches and technical team are very knowledgeable and do good practices. In fact, I think our biggest minus in this regard is that unfortunately our footballer brothers do not take care of themselves as they are supposed to do."

"We have a similar genetic background to the footballers in the big leagues we watch with admiration"

Pointing out that we have a similar genetic background to the footballers in the big leagues that we watch with admiration as literature information, Prof. Ulucan stated that "We are lucky in this respect. Here we need training models that are suitable for our genetic structure and a group of footballers who will pay a little more attention to themselves. Again, some of the genetic variants we analyzed allow us to be successful in making any movement. For example, it is about how much work we have to do to get the penalty kick to a certain point. Of course, the results we obtain here are not quantitative, but qualitative. In other words, it gives us results such as 'you need to repeat more' rather than saying 'do these many hours or this many repetitions'."

"Footballers do not know enough about nutrition"

Underlining that not only athletes, but also individuals who do not perform physical activity need appropriate nutrition programs, Prof. Korkut Ulucan stated that "Nutrition and rest are very important in the formation and protection of athlete performance. Actually, it is important enough to prevent training most of the time. After a good workout, athletes need a very good nutrition program to develop and appropriate regeneration conditions for the repair or development of tired and worn muscles. In our studies, we found that not only do our footballers not only not have enough information about nutrition, but also have misinformation, possibly from the Internet or their friends. Especially this information about food supplements is very serious. We have always tried to explain that, there will be no need for such food supplements with a balanced and genetically appropriate diet, at least in some periods. Let the nutritionists you work with create them. No matter how well you train, no matter how well you perform, if you cannot send enough of the necessary molecules to our cells, it is useless, and even an indicator of injury. For example, we have detected inflammatory variants in many athletes and provided their dietitians with the necessary information. Especially, these genetic variants can cause unintended consequences when combined with genetic variants that predispose to non-impact injuries, also referred to as soft tissue injuries."

Psychogenetic factors were also identified in the athletes involved in the study

Pointing out that the most striking results of the study were the determination of psychogenetic factors that also affect the concentration of football players, Prof. Ulucan said that "We have identified serotonergic and dopaminergic genetic variants that are associated with anxiety in many football players we have studied. Actually, these variants alone or together may predispose to them; however, environmental factors are also important in the occurrence of such problems. Therefore, no matter what genetic variants they have, our footballers can overcome this possible problem with mental support or sports psychologists."

The main reason for falling out of the game in the last 20-25 minutes of matches can be psychological factors

Prof. Ulucan stated that he thinks that the main reason for falling out of the game, is due to psychological factors rather than fitness problems, especially in the last 20-25 minutes of the matches and added: "I think that the reason why we get angry with our opponents more easily, especially in foreign matches, is that we cannot control these factors. Perhaps our competitors have already solved us. However, with a programmed work, even if we have these variants, our athletes can stay calm and not break away from the concentration of the game. Especially for our young players, these genetic factors have a great impact on their development."

They worked with more than 200 footballers

Stating that they worked with about 200 football players within the scope of their projects, Prof. Ulucan underlined that scientific and disciplined studies make and will make a difference and said that "Most of our athletes were youth athletes; however, now some of them continue to play football abroad and some of them continue to play football in the top leagues in our country. Most of them have now become professionals. We also have national footballers in our working groups. I am still meeting with some of them and trying to support them in any way they want. This is a long process, and lifestyles that are suitable for the genetic structure are starting to make a difference in a long time. Although many of our athletes report the changes in a short time, it takes time for them to reach the level we want, as long as they implement the program consistently.”.


Üsküdar News Agency (ÜNA)