The findings -- based on the study of 26 male college basketball players -- suggest that such diagnostic work should perhaps be included as a standard part of physical examinations for male and female basketball players, who regularly place considerable stress on their feet, said Duke radiologist Nancy Major, M.D. Other athletes whose sport or training regimen puts similar stresses on bones of the feet might also stand to benefit from the MRI evaluation, she added.
Further study is warranted to consider the policy implications of such a practice, she added. The MRI screening would not be recommended for people who participate in such sports on a casual or more limited basis.
"When diagnostic work is conducted pre-season, at-risk players are more likely to be identified, receive treatment and ultimately play the entire year instead of losing eight to 12 weeks on the bench," Major said.
Major presented her findings at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago on Dec. 2, 2004.
A stress fracture is a small crack in a bone brought on by overuse or repeated impact on a hard surface over a long period of time, Major said. The muscles that absorb the shock of the impact eventually become fatigued, diverting much of the stress to the underlying bone. If the injury goes undetected, more serious stress fractures can occur, resulting in chronic problems or the need for surgery. For top college athletes, such an injury can mean the end of a season or even of a career, she added.
"Stress fractures of the foot are extremely common in college basketball players," Major said. "The combined repetitive jumping and landing required of players
Contact: Kendall Morgan
Duke University Medical Center