MRI may show abnormalities in basketball players' lower extremities

Exercise is often one of the most important things for staying healthy. It may prevent people from getting ill or gaining weight in some cases. Many people play sports to stay active and socialize with their teammates. Certain sports can lead to increased injuries. For example, sports like basketball that involve a lot of jumping can be hard on a player's lower limbs and joints. This can have lasting affects on the body of the player. One way this can happen is through osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative form of arthritis. Some other results, both acute and chronic, can be observed through MRI of both asymptomatic and symptomatic patients.

Basketball players face a high risk of injury, which has only increased as the level of physicality necessary for basketball increased.1 The three most common types of injuries in basketball are those to the foot and ankle, hip and thigh and knee.2 Each of these categories has acute and chronic injuries that can occur and ways to prevent injury. Players should take caution during their games and practices to avoid injuries.

Foot and ankle injuries

Players often suffer from injury to the lower extremities, among which the foot and ankle are injured the most.2 When jumping, players may roll their ankle. In some cases, another player may accidentally step on someone's foot or ankle. Less commonly, ankles may be injured after a fall by another player stepping on them.

After injury, players may then need X-rays for initial treatment. If nothing is found and the pain persists, their physician may order additional imaging using computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Both of these methods can be used to image the soft tissue structures in the region of interest. MRI in particular can provide excellent, detailed images of tendon injuries and tears.

Stress fractures of the toes can lead to a player being out for the rest of the season and are caused by overuse.3 MRI, in particular can monitor abnormalities that accompany pain on examination. These abnormalities may be highlighted by an increase in signal intensity in a particular region. It is also effective in identifying bone marrow edema, which may be caused by changes in the biomechanics of the foot. Both the aforementioned abnormalities and the changes in the biomechanics may aid the physician in predicting outcomes, such as stress fractures.3

Hip and thigh injuries

Many techniques that players use during basketball can cause injury to the hips and legs.2 Pivoting requires a player to turn on the spot with one foot on the ground, which can cause strains if done incorrectly. Rebounding, running and jumping are some more ways that a player can end up with a strain. After a misstep or injury, a player may be off balance and over-correct for their mistake. This may lead to further injury.

Like ankle and foot injuries, injuries to the hip and thigh can require X-ray, CT or MRI imaging. X-ray shows the bone structures and can aid doctors in detecting breaks and fractures in the patient's bones. CT can show additional fractures that may be missed on X-ray or show tissue detail. MRI can show even more detail of any tissue damage and can help the doctor monitor the progression of treatment.

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Knee injuries

Anterior cruciate ligaments (ACLs) are often torn in many sports that involve player-to-player contact. They can occur in basketball, but are less common than in other sports such as football.2 Knees injuries like sprains and strains are still the third most common injury in basketball. Additionally, long term players, both amateur and professional alike, can have abnormalities in their knee structures.

MRI can show tissue damage like it can in the foot, leg, hip and thigh, but it can also show additional abnormalities in even asymptomatic players.4 According to one study, "the majority of professional basketball players have one or more abnormalities in the knee".4 Because of this, some teams may want to image their players using MRI to make notes of their current abnormalities. As time passes, radiologists that read the player's radiographs can then compare the images and potentially monitor changes and plan treatment.

Basketball players face a number of injuries to the lower extremities, including the foot, ankle, knee, hip and thigh. These injuries can last for a short time or a long time and may be observed by the physician through the use of medical imaging techniques such as X-ray, CT, and MRI. This may also aid players and doctors in their treatment planning and predicting further long-term injury. In turn, these players may continue to see the advantages of exercising and staying active.


1. Mark C. Drakos, et al. "Injury in the National Basketball Association: A 17-Year Overview." Sports Health. July 2010; 2(4): 284-290. Web. 13 March 2019. doi: 10.1177/1941738109357303.

2. "The 5 Most Common Basketball Injuries and How to Prevent Them." 21 March 2016. Web. 13 March 2019. <>.

3. Nancy M. Major. "Role of MRI in Prevention of Metatarsal Stress Fractures in Collegiate Basketball Players." American Journal of Roentgenology. January 2006; 186(1): 255-258. Web. 13 March 2019. doi: 10.2214/AJR.04.1275.

4. Brian E. Walczak. "Abnormal Findings on Knee Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Asymptomatic NBA Players." Journal of Knee Surgery. January 2008; 21(1): 27-33. Web. 13 March 2019. <>.

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