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Bone and tendon injuries common in track and field athletes

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Track and field athletes at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro were more likely to experience bone stress injuries, according to new research.

An analysis of all sports injuries at the most recent Olympic Games revealed that bone stress injuries were reported more commonly in women, mostly in the lower extremities and while competing in track and field events.

Tendon abnormalities were also most common in track and field athletes, however, they most frequently involved the shoulder, as well as the Achilles and patellar tendons.

The findings have been published in two separate studies in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Researchers from the United States, Switzerland, Norway, France, Germany and Brazil studied 25 bone stress injuries and 156 tendon abnormalities that were reported during the 2016 Summer Olympics from a total population of over 11,000 Olympians representing more than 200 countries.

All injured athletes underwent imaging at the official International Olympic Committee clinic in the Olympic Village, and the images were reviewed independently by two board-certified musculoskeletal radiologists with expertise in sports injuries.

“Bone stress and tendon abnormalities are common sports injuries that pose a major concern for professional athletes as they can jeopardise the athletes’ abilities to train and compete,” explained co-author Dr Mohamed Jarraya, research fellow in musculoskeletal radiology at Boston University School of Medicine.

Corresponding author Dr Ali Guermazi, professor of radiology and medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and a radiologist at Boston Medical Center, said that the research demonstrates the importance of early imaging with MRI to detect bone stress reactions before they can progress to stress fractures, especially in symptomatic athletes who may have normal X-rays.

In terms of tendon injuries, precompetition imaging would be helpful in detecting chronic lesions and taking preventive measures, Dr Guermazi added.

The researchers believe that additional studies are necessary to further the understanding of the mechanisms of injuries in order to develop robust and discipline-specific injury prevention strategies.