There is an injury risk to competing in any sport, and nothing is more important than to make sure that any injuries are properly and promptly diagnosed.MRI imaging can be an important tool towards diagnosis that can lead to a faster and more effective recovery. Here are a few important examples of how MRI scans can help athletes.
Football and CTE
The NFL’s ongoing controversy with athlete head trauma is well-known, but even youth athletes have been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease which can lead to early dementia. While CTE cannot be diagnosed until after death, MRIs can help diagnose brain damage.
A normal MRI can detect small amounts of bleeding, tumors, and scarring, while more advanced MRI can look at how a person’s brain structure changes over time. However, the brain is a delicate and still poorly understood object and MRIs can still fail to notice brain injuries.
The knee is one of the most important yet vulnerable areas of the human body, and ligament and cartilage tears can quickly put an athlete out of commission. Different types of scans are suitable to diagnose the cause of different kinds of pain. An MRI is best suited to examine an athlete’s ligaments to ensure that nothing is sprained or torn. Otherwise, ultrasound and CT scans can help diagnose more difficult causes, such as a cyst or a potential fracture.
Diagnosing the Degree of Injury
When we read about an athlete who has undergone an MRI scan and tested positive or negative, we often view the MRI scan as a binary choice. But MRI scans do more than that. In addition to diagnosing whether an athlete has torn a ligament or not, they also show how severe the damage is.
For example, an athlete may have completely torn a ligament, or only partially torn it. This can make a huge difference in recovery times, and there are even some injuries like plantar fasciitis where a full tear can make the recovery process easier.
MRI and Bones
Ever since we were children, we have learned that an X-ray is what doctors use to check for broken bones. While an X-ray is often a doctor’s first choice, sometimes it cannot notice small, yet critical breaks and the X-ray gives a two-dimensional picture compared to a MRI’s three-dimensional analysis. And while an X-ray is not harmful, an MRI has no radiation. The small health risks from an MRI apply to those with physical implants which means not athletes.
On a final note, there are nonathletic health reasons to have an MRI. They can be used to check health of your organs such as the liver and kidneys, and can be used to check for cancer. In addition to checking for CTE, an MRI can check for brain activity to assess the aftermath of a stroke or other serious medical conditions.
The fact is that an MRI scan is a quick and painless method for athletes to stay healthy and know exactly what their injuries are. Do not worry about a scan, though do remember that they like any machines are not perfect and imperfect diagnoses can occasionally happen.
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