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Scans May Be Misleading for Hockey Players

MRIs shouldn't take the place of a good clinical exam, study finds

SUNDAY, March 14 (HealthDay News) -- They had no symptoms, but 70 percent of able-bodied professional and collegiate hockey players in a U.S. study had abnormal hip and pelvis MRIs.

"This study was done to see if abnormal MRI results are found incidentally in active roster hockey players," Dr. Matthew Silvis, an assistant professor in the department of family medicine and orthopedics at Hershey Medical Center at Penn State University College of Medicine, said in a news release.

"Unexpectedly, the majority of players had some abnormality in their MRI, but it didn't limit their playing ability. The study raises many questions, but its value to surgeons is to recognize that imaging doesn't replace good clinical judgment, which includes a detailed history and complete physical exam. This study might make you hesitate to read too much into an MRI," Silvis said.

Researchers took high-resolution MRIs of the pelvis and hips of 21 professional and 18 collegiate hockey players, aged 18 to 35. Only two of the players reported slight pain, but the MRIs revealed that 21 players (54 percent) had labral tears (tears in the structure that keeps the hip in place), 12 (31 percent) had muscle strain injuries of the hips, and two (5 percent) had inflammation of the hips.

The findings were to be presented Saturday at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine's annual meeting in New Orleans.

"This study raises all sorts of questions that should be examined in further studies. For example, will these abnormalities cause problems and symptoms later for these athletes?" Silvis said. "But this study shows the limitations of depending too heavily on an MRI. A surgeon may see something in the image, but it isn't causing a problem."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more about sports injuries.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, news release, March 13, 2010

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