Team Up With Touchstone: Imaging for Sports Medicine

September 29, 2022 – 5 min read

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“Let’s go, TEAM!” If you’re hearing your young cheerleader practice chants all over the house—or if you’re texting your Saturday morning running partner about getting back on the trails after a summer hiatus—you’re not alone. Autumn has come, and for many people, that means one thing: the start of the fall sports season. For some people, that means an injury and a visit to the sports medicine clinic.

If a family practice or sports medicine doctor orders sport-specific diagnostic imaging, Touchstone Medical Imaging offers an affordable, convenient way to get insight into all kinds of sports injuries. Let’s look at some of the most common injuries in fall sports to see how medical imaging plays a role in identifying them.

Sports Medicine Imaging: Head Injuries

A concussion may be among the most-feared injury in high school football, and other contact sports, for good reason. This injury can result in consequences that are initially invisible but may affect athletes years into the future. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, high school football players experience concussions at a rate of 39.07 concussions per 10,000 games played. Cheerleading, ice hockey, boys’ lacrosse and girls’ field hockey also have high concussion rates.

A concussion may or may not lead to unconsciousness. An athlete may “shake it off” and return to play; experience symptoms such as headache, confusion and dizziness; or be knocked unconscious. If your doctor suspects a serious concussion, they may order an imaging scan to learn more.

Imaging scans for concussion include:

  • MRI of the head: This sensitive scan reveals detailed pictures of the brain. If an athlete has repeated head trauma or suspected blood vessel injury, MRI scans can reveal the exact spot and details of the injury. MRI technology can even detect tears in the nerve fibers that conduct messages across the brain.
  • CT of the head: This scan provides prompt information for people suspected of having a serious head injury. Depending on an athlete’s level of consciousness after a blow to the head, a doctor may order a head CT to see how serious the injury is.
  • Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI): This advanced type of MRI examines the motion in water molecules in the brain to detect signs of change. This form of imaging works particularly well when your sports medicine doctor has a baseline DTI scan. The doctor can compare this information to post-injury imaging.

Sports Medicine Imaging: Knee Injuries

Speeding down the gridiron. Changing direction quickly on the soccer field. Leaping across tree roots on a trail running course. Athletes have plenty of chances to sprain or tear the ligaments and tendons of the knee. Not all sprains, strains and tears will require imaging. However, if an injury seems serious, diagnostic imaging will provide information your doctor needs to formulate a treatment plan.

Torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) or MCL (medial collateral ligament) injuries can result from a blow to the knee or a quick stop or change in direction. These ligaments help keep the knee steady, and when they become damaged, it leads to instability. Athletes may experience ACL, MCL or other joint injuries in quick-moving sports like basketball, football, soccer and tennis.

  • Knee MRI: An MRI of the knee, ankle or other affected joint can identify a torn ligament, such as an ACL or MCL tear. This scan can also visualize torn cartilage, such as the meniscus. These are the cartilage pads in your knee that work like shocks on a car to absorb jumping and other sudden forces. The scan can be used to make a diagnosis or to help doctors plan a repair surgery.

Sports Medicine Imaging: Broken Bones

Falls, collisions and even sudden torquing movements may do more than tear ligaments or tendons. Sometimes, these injuries result in a broken bone, known as a fracture. Sudden trauma, such as a tackle during a football game, may break a bone.

Imaging scans for fractures include:

  • X-ray: Doctors often order X-rays as the go-to imaging method for quickly determining whether an athlete has broken a bone. X-rays can also reveal the type of break. An X-ray can show your doctor exactly where the fracture is located. An X-ray also shows whether it’s still lined up, angled or shattered.
  • CT scan: To visualize complex or delicate fractures, your doctor may order a CT scan for more detail. Creating multiple X-ray images of the broken bone, a CT scan can provide a fuller picture for your doctor to review as they create a treatment plan.

From broken bones to soft-tissue injuries, Touchstone Medical Imaging offers a wide variety of advanced imaging for sports accidents. After receiving an order from your doctor for imaging, contact the Touchstone Medical Imaging center most convenient for you.

Your radiologist: A key player on your sports medicine team

If you seek medical care for a sports injury, you will need a sports medicine team to assess the problem and help you heal. This team often consists of a doctor and physical therapist that you physically see for treatment. However, one essential member of your sports medicine team plays an important role behind the scenes: your radiologist. An orthopedic-specialized, fellowship-trained radiologist trains extensively in interpreting the results of CT, MRI and other scans used in visualizing sports injuries. At Touchstone Medical Imaging, board-certified, subspecialized radiologists interpret each imaging study. They give your doctor the detailed information needed to move forward with your treatment plan and keep you in the game for the long term.

Touchstone Medical Imaging offers convenient, cost-effective outpatient imaging for pediatric and adult athletes alike at up to 60% less than hospital imaging. After receiving an order from your doctor for imaging, contact your nearest Touchstone Medical Imaging center to schedule an appointment.