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