What an MRI Can Tell You After a Sports Injury

Apr 04, 2023
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What an MRI Can Tell You After a Sports Injury

If you play sports, at some point, you’ll likely experience injury. Sports injuries affect anyone who plays sports or exercises, but they are particularly common among children. In fact, more than 3.5 million kids 14 and younger get hurt every year during sports and other recreational activities. 

Most sports injuries heal with rest and ice after just a few days. But, if you have persistent pain, weakness, or swelling, it’s time to seek an evaluation. When you come to St. Michael’s Elite Hospital in Sugar Land, Texas, our team performs a thorough review of your symptoms, considers the circumstances that resulted in your injury, and tests your muscles, reflexes, and range of motion.

Depending on the nature of your injury, we may also order imaging tests to confirm a diagnosis. X-rays can help determine if you have a bone fracture, but they can’t give any information about damage to soft tissue. MRIs, or magnetic resonance images, offer a clearer picture of changes in your soft tissue, organs, and other structures. 

Here’s the essential information we can learn from an MRI after a sports injury.

How an MRI works

An MRI does not use radiation like X-rays, so you don’t have to worry about the long-term effects of exposure. The device uses a large magnetic coil, radio waves, magnetic fields, and a computer to produce detailed 3D images of the inside of your body.

An MRI is a noninvasive test. You remove all jewelry and clothing and put on a hospital gown. You lie on a special medical table that your technician slides into the circular opening of the MRI machine. You’ll be asked to stay completely still and may be propped with pillows or straps to keep you stable. 

You’re given earbuds and an option to listen to music to block out the noise of the scanner. Your technician is in the next room and visible through glass as the MRI machine runs. You’ll hear a clicking noise as the machine creates a magnetic field and sends pulses of radio waves to create images of your organs and tissues. 

What an MRI shows

An MRI shows details about most internal structures in the body. That includes the organs, muscles, blood vessels, bones, and connective tissue. The imaging test is particularly helpful after a sports injury because it reveals problems in the hip flexors, elbows, ankles, knees, and shoulders – common areas damaged during tackles, falls, and overuse. 

An MRI can reveal damage to complex joints, like the knee, which do not present on an X-ray. That includes anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears and stress fractures. MRIs show subtle tendon injuries and cartilage damage, too. 

Reasons you’d need an MRI

We may order an MRI to reduce the need for exploratory surgery. It helps your doctor diagnose problems with muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, cartilage, and the spine. MRIs can also identify blood clots or herniated discs that result from a tackle or fall. 

Specific injuries that an MRI can detect include:

  • Ligament tears or overstretching
  • Muscle strains or ruptures
  • Fluid in the knee
  • Inflammation in soft tissue, especially from overuse

An MRI can also give a faster and more accurate diagnosis of fractures, including stress fractures.

If you’ve experienced a sports injury, and your symptoms don’t get better with rest or you find the pain interferes with daily life or play, it’s time to make an appointment at St. Michael’s Elite Hospital. Contact our hospital to schedule an appointment immediately or make your way to our emergency room.

St. Michael's Elite Hospital