MRI wins gold at 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio

Up against 11,000 athletes from 206 countries, MRI won gold as the most popular imaging modality at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.  

In a study published online on Feb. 26 in Radiology, rearchers from the Quantitative Imaging Center at Boston University School of Medicine found a total of 1,015 radiologic imaging examinations were performed on 718 athletes over the course of the month-long Olympic games.  

The researchers analyzed data from imaging exams of sports-related injuries, including stress injuries, fractures and muscle and tendon disorders and documented the usage of x-ray, ultrasound and MRI technology.  

"Imaging is paramount for determining whether or not an injured athlete is able to return to competition," said lead author Ali Guermazi, MD, PhD, professor and vice chair in the department of radiology at Boston University School of Medicine and musculoskeletal radiologist at Boston Medical Center, in a prepared statement. "Anticipated absence from competition or training is often based on imaging findings. In cases of severe injury, imaging will further help in determining the best therapeutic approach." 

MRIs made up 60 percent of 1,015 imaging examinations, followed by radiographic imaging (30 percent) and ultrasound (10 percent). Researchers also found that, not including 10 athletes categorized as refugees, athletes from Africa had the highest imaging utilization rate (14.8 percent). 

"This trend persisted from the London 2012 Summer Olympics and should be cause for concern if the reason is lack of access to adequate healthcare at home, including medical imaging services," Guermazi said. 

Additionally, athletes from Europe had the highest number of total examinations (103 x-rays, 39 ultrasounds and 254 MRIs). Europe also had the largest number of participants (4,805), according to the researchers. Track and field had the most examinations conducted overall (293).  Artistic gymnastics had the highest percentage of their athletes undergo imaging (15.5 percent), followed by taekwondo (14.2 percent) and beach volleyball (13.5 percent). 

"In some sports, like beach volleyball or Taekwondo, the high utilization rate was somewhat unexpected," Guermazi said. "These numbers may help in planning imaging services for future events and will also help in analyzing further why some sports are at higher risk for injury and how these injuries can possibly be prevented."

Anatomically, the lower limb was the most commonly area imaged, with the upper limb second. Among muscle injuries, 83.9 percent affected muscles from the lower extremities and 84 percent of stress injuries were seen in the lower extremities, the researchers concluded.