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Understanding common MRI findings may allow clinicians to appreciate the sport-specific effects on the lumbar spine, and to discern clinically significant pathology. Prevalence data regarding radiological abnormalities seen during the surveillance of asymptomatic elite footballers is, therefore, important to help understand injury mechanisms and to prevent associated injuries. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings in the lumbar spines of asymptomatic elite male adolescent footballers.
These findings highlight the importance of interpreting MRI findings in elite male academy footballers in the context of the clinical signs and symptoms. Team doctors should exercise caution when requesting MRI lumbar spine imaging unless there is a clear clinical indication, and thought has been given as to how to deal with clinically insignificant findings. This study also demonstrates the potential utility of MRI 3D VIBE sequencing to diagnose and assess healing of pars injuries in elite footballers and could negate the need to expose players to ionising radiation (e.g., CT), however more robust studies would be needed to confirm this finding.
Methods: A prospective case-series study was carried out. MRI was performed using a 3T Siemens Prisma scanner including a 3D VIBE sequence in 18 asymptomatic male elite adolescent footballers recruited from a professional academy in England (mean age 17.8, range 16.9-18.6 years). The images were independently reported by two consultant musculoskeletal radiologists to achieve consensus opinion. Standardised classification criteria were used to assess and report abnormalities descriptively.
Results: Radiologist 1 identified a total of 16 pars injuries. Radiologist 2 identified a total of 14 pars injuries. The lesions were described as low signal intensity changes within the pars interarticularis including one case of a complete articular fracture and one case of a partial articular fracture. Injuries were mostly located to the superior or inferior corner of the joint. The majority of lesions were well demarcated. d2c66b5586