Imaging is playing an increasing role in assessment of patients with sports related injuries and conditions. The traditional plain radiographs are more frequently being supplemented by the use of ultrasound and MRI. Ultrasound is useful for investigating superficial soft tissue structures that are not well seen on x-rays. Ultrasound and MRI are non-invasive and have the advantage of not involving harmful radiation. Useful applications of ultrasound include, for example, assessment of the rotator cuff in the shoulder and periarticular structures in other joints, characterisation of superficial swellings or collections, and assessment of tendons.
MRI is a technology that provides clear images of soft tissues, joints and bone and is commonly used for diagnosis of sports-related injuries in the major joints and in the spine. MRI images can locate and identify the cause of pain, swelling or bleeding in the tissues in and around joints and bones. For example, small tears in tendons can be shown and some fractures that cannot be seen on x-rays. MRI is helpful in the assessment of chronic disorders of tendons, ligaments and joints that may be seen in those participating in sport. MRI is important in investigating injury to the spine and to show disc herniations.