Improvements in Treating Sports Injuries Can Benefit Everyone…From Professional Athletes to Recreational Enthusiasts

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Diana Nole, Carestream Health

Diana L. Nole, President, Digital Medical Solutions

Sports medicine is a branch of medicine that deals with the broad scope of overall physical fitness as well as the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and recovery of injuries related to sports and exercise. Beyond professional sports where teams have employed their own physicians for years, sports medicine has emerged as a healthcare specialty focusing on a large patient population that includes youth sports, casual athletes and adults dedicated to active lifestyles. Many challenges exist in sports medicine today but two that are top of mind in the area of radiology are:

  • Earlier detection and monitoring protocols for traumatic brain injuries (TBI);  and
  • Accurate diagnosis, treatment planning and recovery follow-up for extremity injuries common to knees, ankles, feet, elbows and hands.

While the topic of TBI has received much press recently in the world of sports, it is also a major public health problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that every year at least 1.7 million TBI occur either as an isolated injury or along with other injuries. TBI is a contributing factor to almost a third (30.5%) of all injury-related deaths in the United States. The cost of diagnosing and treating TBI in the U.S. alone is $30 billion annually. The dangers posed by concussions apply to recreational and professional sports enthusiasts of all ages. The CDC estimates nearly 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur every year. Most athletes will recover from concussions in a week or two, but complications can occur if a concussion is not properly recognized or treated. Athletes with multiple concussions or athletes who continue playing before they are fully recovered are at increased risk for long-lasting problems that can include severe headaches, bouts of anxiety and depression, and balance problems. Medical studies on professional athletes have linked concussions to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease that causes dementia and depression.

Based on study from UPMC.

According to a study from UPMC, 1 in 10 high school athletes will suffer a concussion this year.

Extremity injuries are also a major health issue. In the U.S., musculoskeletal disorders are reported more than any other health condition and 9% are related to sports activities. These injuries can cause pain, limit activities and require surgical repair and/or physical therapy.

Early detection and effective treatment planning are essential to minimizing the immediate and long term effects of both TBI and extremity injuries. One potential solution is a next generation, cost-effective 3D imaging system designed for use at the point of care/point of potential injury at practice and sports venues, as well as for use by healthcare specialists in their offices or in hospitals. This could enable physicians to more quickly treat the patient while reducing the number of office visits, thus improving the quality of care from the patient’s point of view.

Carestream is working with research partners to develop such a solution using cone beam CT based technology that can detect both initial damage—and monitor recovery—from a brain injury. This could enable physicians to design appropriate treatment regimens for each patient to help reduce the effects of the injury. This technology also could deliver advantages for extremity imaging including images of anatomy under true weight-bearing conditions (i.e. standing), which could provide valuable diagnostic information that is not currently available.

What type of imaging systems are you currently using for TBI and extremity exams? What do you see as the improvements needed to deliver better image quality and diagnostic confidence for these exams?


  • reply

    Fred Summers

    There is a lot of danger from concussions. I know I tried to take the SAT when I had a concussion and it was not a good experience. There is a great responsibility to train coaches and parents to recognized the symptoms so that the kids can receive treatment. Thanks for the article.

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    I think so much has changed in terms of approaching sports injuries and giving more attention towards preventative care. I think this was a fantastic topic to overview. Well done!

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    I certainly hope that some more cost effective 3D imaging systems are developed. The faster kids and adults are treated, the better off they will be. Of course, it would probably be better to be able to prevent TBI injuries, but I don’t think that is possible yet. Though, I still hope preventative measures are being researched.

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    It’s crazy to think that there are over 1.7 million traumatic brain injuries that occur every single year. Back when I was boxing a lot I remember worrying about getting injured and not being able to play anymore all the time. It’s good to know that these days we have such good technology and can get back on our feet after an injury.

  • reply

    A couple of years ago I injured my shoulder playing tennis and it has given me a lot of trouble the whole time. This article talks about planning on injuries for the future in case they happen. I am definitely going to do that, and for now I am going to look further into sports medicine.

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    I very much appreciate the insight.
    It’s going to be helpful to me and many others. Do you have any other sources so that I can dig a little deeper?

    • reply

      Thank you for reading and commenting on our blog. I’m afraid I don’t have additional resources on the topic but I suspect you will find many on the internet. Good luck!

  • reply

    Thank you for your informative post on sports injuries.

  • reply

    Thank you soo much,very infomative,Great article.

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    Heidi Bookenstock

    My girlfriend’s son plays on his high school lacrosse team and loves it, he’s even committed to play for a great university. But he’s sustained injuries over the years that could be made worse if they aren’t treated, which could jeopardize his college lacrosse career. Anxious to avoid this, my girlfriend and I are looking into treatment options and information about her son’s injuries. This article has been so informational and informative, I had no idea that as many as 3.8 million sport-related concussions occur every year, how insane!

  • reply

    Michael Griffin

    This article is great and very informative one. Many people are least bothered to treat the injuries; instead they opt for an instant relief. It is always recommended to take care of the injuries with care before they turns into a health disaster. Thank you so very much for sharing this with us.


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