May 20, 2022

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The Case for Getting a Second Opinion in Sports Injuries

Sports Injuries: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Sport injuries are common regardless of whether you play a professional sport, go to the gym regularly, or just play soccer on the weekends.

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Misdiagnosis and mistreatment of injuries can have lifelong and sometimes debilitating consequences. A radiology subspecialist can ensure the best diagnosis and ease the road to recovery by reading your medical scans.

Several of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Bears have been treated by Dr. Vaishali Lafita, an expert in musculoskeletal imaging and MRI. Here, she explains the importance of a second opinion for sports injury diagnosis and offers invaluable advice to patients going through the diagnostic process.

Is a second opinion helpful in diagnosing sports injuries? What are some of the biggest challenges?

Professor Lauretta

Children and young adults are more likely to participate in sports, especially over the past decade or so. This has led to an increase in acute injuries. However, musculoskeletal scans can be challenging to read. Even though they are required to be read by MSK subspecialists, such as MSK radiologists or MSK MRI experts, many are read by general radiologists. Medical errors are more likely to occur.

We’re seeing a rapid rate of wear and tear among patients as a result of increased activity among the general population. Therefore, it is critically important for the interpreting radiologist to be able to distinguish between a critical injury and something as simple as wear and tear. The experience and training required for this isn’t necessarily available to general radiologists.

Second opinions enable patients to ensure that their scans have been examined by the most appropriate expert. Diagnosis of sports injuries can be vastly affected by this factor.

A few months ago, I performed a second opinion for a patient who had undergone two MRIs of the same joint within a year of each other without any conclusive diagnosis and therefore without any treatment for the symptoms. Using the second opinion report I provided her after interpreting her scans, she was able to receive appropriate treatment for her ongoing symptoms. It is important to get a second opinion.

DocPanel makes specialty care more accessible by offering various avenues for patients to seek a second opinion. It is still possible for patients to have an expert look at their scans even if their clinic only has generalists – without paying an astronomical amount to be seen at a specialty clinic. The service is also invaluable to international patients, who are unable to access subspecialty radiologists where they live or are travelling.

In order to diagnose a sports injury, what is the first step?

Professor Fitta

Who you see for that first appointment will determine the next step in treating persistent aches and pains or an acute injury. The importance of a good clinical exam conducted by an experienced professional cannot be overstated.

During that clinical examination, your doctor (whether a family practitioner, paediatrician, sports medicine specialist, or orthopaedic specialist) will determine what structures of a specific joint need to be assessed or treated. The doctor will evaluate your condition and decide whether imaging tests are needed, such as x-rays or MRIs.

It is equally important to have a subspecialty radiologist perform diagnostic interpretations of medical imaging, and to have a specialist perform the clinical examination. Medical imaging is complex in sports medicine. Specialists are better able to make an accurate diagnosis.

How do you diagnose sports injuries using medical scans?

Professor Fitta

An X-ray is a good place to start. The tests are especially helpful in ruling out fractures of a particular joint or bone, which helps determine how to proceed.

A physician can also use X-rays to decide what type of imaging modality to use next based on the results of the X-ray. A CT scan (CAT scan) may be ordered by an orthopaedic surgeon in the event of a fracture to assess the severity of the fracture before surgery. It’s a great indication if an x-ray shows no abnormalities that either ligaments, muscles, labrums, menisci, or bones have been injured. An MRI is the best follow-up test for patients with suspected soft tissue conditions.