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Clin J Sport Med. 2014 Sep;24(5):385-9. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000056.

The role of magnetic resonance imaging in a Division I university sports medicine program.

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*Division of Sports Medicine and Shoulder Surgery, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, Missouri; †Division of Sports Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, Missouri; ‡BJC Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Specialists, Edwardsville, Illinois; and §Advanced Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, Saint Louis, Missouri.



To prospectively document musculoskeletal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) use and how it affects diagnosis, playing status, and treatment of Division I university athletes. We hypothesized that MRI often has little or no effect on the diagnosis or treatment plan.


Cross-sectional study.


Division I university sports medicine program.


Division I university varsity athletes.


Data were collected of musculoskeletal MRI use in varsity student athletes for 2 full academic years from 2010 to 2012 at a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I institution.


Timing of the injury, first physician visit, and MRI and pre- and post-MRI diagnosis, playing status, and treatment (surgical vs nonsurgical).


Eighty-six MRIs were obtained during the 2 years studied. Average age was 19.9 (18-23) years. Forty-five percent of injuries occurred during competition season, 34% occurred preseason, and 21% occurred postseason. There was a change in diagnosis in 13 athletes (15.1%, 1 led to surgery performed after completion of the season), and there was a change in participation status in 8 athletes (9.3%, 5 increased and 3 decreased). Treatment plan changed in 1 athlete (1.2%). No athlete required surgery immediately after an MRI that was not already being planned. Every athlete treated nonsurgically pre-MRI was able to finish their season.


Magnetic resonance imaging was obtained in 14% of athletes and did not demonstrate a clear benefit over history, examination, and radiographs. Magnetic resonance imaging did change diagnosis in 15% of cases, though it did not appreciably change the playing status or treatment plan.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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