New Screens Help Spot Football Injuries

MRI, X-ray are giving doctors a better picture

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WEDNESDAY, Nov. 30, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- New information from MRI and X-rays may help doctors better diagnose and treat two serious injuries common to football players, two new studies suggest.

In the first study, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center reviewed 101 MRI knee exams of 330 football players, all candidates for the 2005 professional league draft.

The reviews identified 57 tears of the lateral meniscus and 26 tears of the medial meniscus.

The lateral meniscus is a flat, disc-shaped ligament that supports the outer knee. The medial meniscus supports the inner knee.

"These findings are remarkable because the authors of the most previous studies have reported a predominance of medial meniscus injuries," study lead author Dr. Jeffrey Towers, associate professor of radiology, said in a prepared statement.

The study found that 18 lateral and eight medial meniscal tears were found in conjunction with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, while 36 lateral and 18 medial tears were isolated injuries.

The high incidence of lateral meniscal tears among these elite football players may help doctors better diagnosis and treat these injuries.

"The fact that we found a concentration of lateral meniscus tears could mean that there's something about this sport that predisposes athletes to this injury. We found that the highest incidence of lateral meniscus tears in linemen an defensive secondary players. Now that we recognize this, there may be ways to address the players who are most at risk for this injury," Towers said.

In the second study, Towers and his colleagues analyzed MRIs and X-rays of another 18 candidates for the 2005 football draft. They identified, for the first time, an indirect sign of a frequently misdiagnosed injury called high ankle sprain (syndesmotic tear).

Both studies were to be presented Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more about football injuries and safety.

SOURCE: Radiological Society of North America, news release, Nov. 30, 2005

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