How Do MRIs Help Diagnose an Athlete’s Injuries?

Almost every week there is a news story on television or online that tells terrified fans that some of the best players on their teams face a debilitating injury. Athletic injuries are some of the worst to treat, not only because of the degree of injury but the damage an injury could have on a person’s quality of life and career.

As opposed to everyday employees injured on the job, professional athletes cannot sue their team for unemployment or for workman’s compensation. Instead they have to hope that the medical professionals around them can help them heal and get back to the game.

Every kind of sport has a tendency toward a specific injury. Because basketball players have to jump and pivot, they often suffer tearing in the ACL ligament. While a tear may not sound as a bad as a breakage, ligaments are fragile. They can repair but they will never be as strong as they once were. MRIs determine the extent of an ACL injury because they’re exceptional when examining the areas of soft tissue and ligaments. For example, Baylor Bears star Isaiah Austin was a first-round draft prospect until diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, a condition that causes weakening of the connective tissues in the body. If Austin were a civilian, it may not have been a huge detriment to his life, but because of his professional basketball prospects, there is too much risk of his heart rupturing because of the connective tissue in the aorta and valves. MRIs along with genetic testing may have helped Austin to discover his Marfan Syndrome but he was still awarded as an Honorary Draft pick and given a job at the NBA.

In recent years, the brain damage that football players experience has become a popular news topic. Because of the routine, aggressive contact, like “horse collaring,” between players and the prevalence of head-to-head injury, more professional and college football players are having MRIs performed to assess any possible damage to the brain. Despite their heavy layers of protection from helmets and shoulder guards, the pure physics of football can explain the widespread damage. When two bodies are traveling at high speed and collide, the impact is the combined speed of the players. This kind of contact explains the predominance of concussions and brain injury to football players. In light of the overwhelming evidence, football safety engineers are working on designing high-impact protection helmets but the best thing for many of these players would be to have regular MRI exams utilizing special techniques like DTI (Diffusion Tensor Imaging) and SWI, another type of MRI. Mild brain trauma is not evident unless these special techniques are employed. Doctors Imaging is one of the few facilities in the South that offers these special MRI programs. Furthermore, the NFL has agreed to pay out settlements to former players with brain injuries stemming from their professional career. The extent of the damage was kept from them for many years, showing how dangerous this American pastime can be.

Baseball players are another sector of professional athletes often troubled by injury. Conditions like torn rotator cuffs and Tommy John elbow surgery are common in baseball because of the need to throw high-speed and long-distance pitches. Overexertion or incorrect motion causes these injuries and can easily put a player on the bench for a season. That is why it is important for players to have shoulders and elbows examined with MRI at the first sign of pain or discomfort. Leaving the problem to worsen can be the difference between a season on the bench and a career-ending injury.

While they may be well-paid and have all the spoils that come with professional athletics, they are also the most prone to career ending injuries. That is why having regular MRIs is one of the best treatment options for professional or college athletes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *