In yet another study in a string of recent studies on adolescent athletes with MRI findings without pain or loss of function (I have blogged before on knee MRI findings in adolescent soccer players), Brazilian researchers reported knee MRI findings in swimmers this week. The 13 elite swimmers had more findings on their knee MRI’s when compared to non-swimmers of their same age. The most common findings were swelling in the bone, swelling in the joint, and swelling around the knee cap. These findings fit only somewhat with other reviews of common swimming related knee problems, which tend to be more medial (inside) and related to breast stroke. I did find one other study, relating lumbar degenerative disc disease at L5-S1 to elite swimmers versus less disease seen in non-elite swimmers. While it’s not known if findings on the knee MRI’s of swimmers without knee pain portend any kind of future problems, this study certainly fits with the concept that MRI findings such as swelling may just indicate normal wear and tear in many patients and may not need any treatment. On the other hand, the fact that both of these studies used a control group of less active patients and saw far less MRI findings in the less active patients may mean that these elite swimmers knee back MRI findings may predict future problems. The only way to tell is continuing both of these studies forward in time to see if any of these patients with knee and back MRI findings develop a clinical problem. Also, much larger studies looking at more swimmers with better study designs would also help settle the question.
About the Author
Christopher J. Centeno, M.D. is an international expert and specialist in regenerative medicine and the clinical use of mesenchymal stem cells in orthopedics. He is board certified in physical medicine as well as rehabilitation and in pain management through The American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.…