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Radiologists use MRI to keep basketball players on their feet

CHICAGO Early identification of potential stress fractures with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can reduce the threat of season-ending injuries for college basketball players, according to research presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

"Stress fractures of the foot are extremely common in college basketball," said the study's author, Nancy Major, M.D., associate professor of radiology and surgery at Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C. "The combined repetitive jumping and landing required of players often results in these injuries, causing players to be benched during the long recovery period."

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. 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 this could mean the end of a season or even a career.

"When diagnostic work is conducted pre-season, at-risk players can be identified, receive treatment and ultimately play the entire year instead of losing 8 to 12 weeks on the bench," Dr. Major said.

An abundance of fluid known as bone marrow edema frequently precedes fractures of the fifth metatarsal bone, which runs from mid-foot to the base of the small toe. This is the bone most vulnerable to stress fractures. MR images depict the edema before fractures become symptomatic.

Identifying an excess of bone marrow edema can reveal stress changes early enough for the placement of orthotics (unique shoe supports and other external bracing devices) to prevent debilitating injuries. Orthotics may also prevent existing stress fractures from becoming complete fractures.

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Contact: Maureen Morley
mmorley@rsna.org
630-590-7762
Radiological Society of North America
1-Dec-2004


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