Monday, June 6, 2011


Recently, I have read a nice study from the US Navy which examined blood protein biomarkers that distinguish superior performers under psychological stress. This is an innovative approach that I think might have applications for elite players’ selection in the near future.

As I said before the study was conducted by Naval Aerospace Research Laboratory in collaboration with the Mississippi State University and Indiana University of Pennsylvania and was supported by a grant from USDA. The rationale behind the study was to identify biomarkers of performance under stress in an effort to improve selection of the SUPERIOR PERFORMERS to naval aviation. This would save the navy millions of dollars since late stage navy aviator training failures are estimated to cost >1,000,000 dollars, according to the authors of the paper.

The researchers evaluated blood using high-throughput proteomics to get biomarkers. Following this stage, they used a very sophisticated mathematical approach (Ingenuity Pathways Analysis) to identify physiological processes related to performance under stress. They found 175 differentially expressed proteins concentrated in two physiological processes. They concluded that blood protein biomarkers are promising complementary tests to select superior performers under stress.

In elite football we search also for superior performers under high psychological stress. No doubt that this is the start of the story. Looking at the data of the paper I must say that there are still some points that need further clarification regarding the experimental design and the methodology. In addition, a mechanism that explains the link between the protein biomarkers and from these the modeled physiological processes with physical performance need to be established.

 However, I must say that there is no perfect study. What this study presents is an novel, complementary approach to improve superior performers' selection. This makes these results of great value to other fields as well. I can speculate that, in the near future, we might be in a position to effectively select the best players by using also certain biomarkers in the blood or, who knows, in saliva.

Cooksey et al. Identifying blood biomarkers and physiological processes that distinguish humans with superior performance under psychological stress. PLoS One 2009 18;4(12); e8371

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