Advances In Medical Imaging Are Making Athletic Sports Safer

Advances In Medical Imaging Are Making Athletic Sports Safer

Morris Panner is CEO of Ambra Health, makers of the leading cloud-based, medical image management suite.

Whether you play for fun or professionally, sports injuries are all too common. The most common sports injuries are musculoskeletal (MSK), such as sprains, strains and fractures. Ankles, knees, wrists, shoulders and elbows are among the most affected body parts — and if you’re ever watched an Olympic gymnast work the balance beam or an NFL star weave past players while tearing down the field, you can see why.

Safety First

Although it isn’t possible to ever completely avoid the possibility of injury, playing sports shouldn’t have to mean high risk for the body. Athletes need to be able to play safely so they can enjoy long careers and remain healthy in their young retirement. Parents, whose children play a variety of sports at all ages, want them to be able to enjoy a soccer match or a pick-up basketball game safely — especially since growing bodies can be at particular risk of injury.

Modifying rules to the game (including different rules for younger age groups) and improving helmets and padding are some ways associations have made competitive sports safer. Athletes can mitigate risk by working out properly, knowing how to take care of their bodies, not playing while injured and employing certain skills when playing.

Proper healthcare also has a role in improving sports safety, notably through medical imaging. 

Medical imaging has the ability to make playing sports safer by helping athletes better diagnose and treat their problems. Properly diagnosing an injury early can be critical, and if an injury has been sustained, then it’s important to be able to accurately evaluate it in order to design an effective treatment plan.

When a player experiences an injury, an X-ray is often the go-to imaging procedure to start. If there has been a fracture or bone break, it will show every clearly in the X-ray. However, if there isn’t a bone injury, then an ultrasound is typically a good next step, as this allows for examination of the soft tissues around muscles, tendons and joints. MRIs can also be effective in diagnosing tendon and ligament injuries.

Advances In Imaging Lead To More Accurate Diagnoses

Basic medical imaging methods have been around for a while, but they’re still improving constantly — which is good news for anyone with sports injuries. As Dr. Vaishali Lafita, a leading MSK and MRI radiologist, explained in an interview with DocPanel, “Technical advances are being implemented to improve characterization and therefore improve accuracy — when you use antiquated technique, it can limit evaluation or characterization to detect abnormalities.”

Use of the latest techniques and the experience of the radiologist are major factors in getting a good diagnosis, but so is the equipment. As the quality of the images being produced continues to become more precise, doctors are able to see clearer details and give a more accurate diagnosis. Dr. Lafita also pointed out that MRI machines with a higher field strength (1.5 Tesla or more) offer better-quality images.

Getting the diagnosis right is so important because of the potential consequences if you get the wrong treatment or the issue is overlooked and left untreated. Sports injuries aren’t (usually) just freak accidents but often come from using your body in a particular way over and over again (repetitive stress) while playing a sport. Choices such as whether or not to undergo surgery or the type of physical rehabilitation recommended could all end up affecting one’s ability to keep playing the sport for the long term.

Medical Imaging In Treatment For Sports Injuries

Imaging can also have a direct role in the treatment of some sports-related injuries, as it may be used during certain procedures. For example, ultrasounds may be used to help guide injections into joints or tendons.

The use of imaging in treatment is becoming more sophisticated, too. Tony Wong, MD of Columbia Radiology has said that he believes the future of MSK radiology will include more precision medicine and has described an intriguing project involving AI: “We are working on new imaging strategies for femoroacetabular impingement using novel MRI techniques as imaging biomarkers for cartilage damage and using AI to help convert static imaging information into dynamic models that allow for a surgical approach to be tailored to specific patients.”

The ability to tailor treatments more specifically to individual patients is undoubtedly a great advance in radiology that will enable athletes to play more safely following injuries.

Seeking Out MSK Specialists

Athletes of all ages and at all levels, from amateur to professional, can be at risk of injury. In addition to taking standard precautions like wearing protective gear, it’s important to see a healthcare professional if you think you might have been hurt while playing. Because getting a good diagnosis is key, it’s a smart idea to seek out a radiologist who specializes in musculoskeletal issues.

With a combination of ever-improving equipment, better techniques and an experienced radiologist, a life of playing sports well into the senior years is possible.

new source: forbes

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