Diagnostic Imaging in Sports Medicine: Present and Future
Muscle injuries account for more than 30% of all injuries in sports like soccer. Their significance is therefore enormous in terms of training sessions and lost game time.
A physical is a crucial requirement for all professional athletes. A correct evaluation will not only improve their safety, but will also guide them to maximum performance. However, there is not yet a consensus among the different medical organizations on exactly what this examination should include.
Recently, a team from FC Barcelona’s medical services – led by Dr. Ricard Pruna – published an article in the Medicina Clínica (Clinical Medicine) magazine, describing the protocol followed by the club to evaluate its professional sportsmen and women, especially soccer players. This is a summary of its main conclusions.
A health check must detect situations which, despite not showing obvious symptoms, may endanger athletes subject to the highest demands. At the same time, it will enable the identification of any predisposition to certain types of injury, thereby reducing the risks. In addition to safety, it will be helpful in guiding athletes through the activities they should do in order to achieve maximum performance, including essential aspects, such as nutritional recommendations.
Given the complexity of the evaluation, it should be carried out by a multidisciplinary team that includes, not only the doctor in charge, but also physiotherapists, nutritionists, physical trainers, sports psychologists, podiatrists or other specialist physicians. And although there will be regular physical examinations throughout the competition, the initial in-depth assessment must be carried out during the pre-season. This will enable the most appropriate decisions to be made.
This initial assessment includes the following parts:
A well-structured protocol is useful to identify a good number of susceptible athletes, but there is not yet a universal consensus on the tests to be included. For example, FIFA and UEFA recommend performing an imaging test such as an echocardiography in these reviews, but other institutions only consider it necessary when there are already suspicions raised from the medical records and previous tests. In the FC Barcelona medical team, this evaluation includes both a medical record and a physical examination, as well as a resting electrocardiogram, an echocardiogram and a stress test.
A medical exam is a must for all professional athletes. Given its importance and complexity, a thorough initial pre-competition assessment should be carried out by a multidisciplinary team of health professionals. A correct health examination will optimize the athlete’s performance and reduce the risk of ill