In a world first, a magnetic resonance system was installed directly on-site at the recent FIFA World Cup to enable immediate diagnosis and fast treatment decisions for injured players.
Dr Alejandro Rolon is the team doctor of the Argentinian National Football Team, and well respected thought leader in the area of musculoskeletal diagnostic imaging in Argentina.
In an interview Dr Rolon explained the impact and advantages of having a high level dedicated MRI at the playing field to provide immediate diagnosis of the high performance of his country's soccer players.
Esaote: Which is your experience in musculoskeletal diagnostic imaging in particular with high performances sports athletes?
Dr Alejandro Rolon: For a long time I have devoted myself to diagnostic imaging in sport medicine and traumatology. Within this field there are two important imaging methodologies – ultrasound and magnetic resonance.
Until recently, ultrasound has been the most important for several reason, one being that among athletes the most common pathologies are muscular-tendinous related, and the best way to evaluate them is by ultrasound. Another important reason is the portability of ultrasound as it allows you to perform diagnosis wherever you are, directly in the field or in the changing room.
Today, when I travel with the national soccer team I will have my ultrasound system over my shoulder, so I am able to diagnose not only the muscolotendinous pathologies but also many other bone- and joint-related injuries.
Even if the ultrasound method is the main tool, magnetic resonance is a great method when it comes to confirm and optimise the diagnosis.
E: For some years now ultrasound has come directly to the soccer field; is it possible to go a step in that direction with MRI?
Dr Rolon: Undoubtedly the possibility to have a magnetic resonance system like the O-scan "on-site" adds an extra element which is not only innovative, but also sets a new trend in sports medicine.
Having the Ultrasound has been already a great advantage and I am actually the second Argentina football team doctor that introduced the portable ultrasound tool for on-field diagnosis.
The possibility of having a magnetic resonance system in the next Brazilian Soccer Tournament will surely allow faster diagnosis and a more prompt decisions on the therapy to use and a more prompt decisions on the therapy to use.
E: Is it common to use MRI with highly competitive athletes and soccer players "on- site"?
Dr Rolon: It's the first time that a magnetic resonance system has appeared in such an important soccer tournament. I remember that during the Madrid Master Tennis Games an Esaote MRI was installed at the tennis stadium and actually there are several clubs that are discovering the advantages of having an MRI at the playing field. Even though this is a new approach, I think this will be a positive trend for the next future.
E: What kind of impact does an early and accurate diagnosis have for high performance athletes?
Dr Rolon: Fast diagnosis is fundamental. Today, the specialist is able to make an accurate diagnosis thanks especially to the combination of ultrasound and magnetic resonance images.
In all muscular and sport related pathologies you find some gray areas: "It's a bit torn".
Being able to correctly identify and classify the lesion will speed up the athletes' recovery time.
The situation is very different when we speak about regular patients that have a lesion and have to wait for their turn with the traumatologist, and maybe after a week or more get an echo or MRI. During that period the doctor has lost the best opportunity to treat the disease.
So by having the MRI available for direct diagnosis, we support a fast rehabilitation and avoid possible collateral problems for the athlete also in another body parts.
E: Why Esaote?
Dr Rolon: Having Esaote equipment is like running with an advantage: as for magnetic resonance there is no other system like the O-scan that allows for an easy installation directly in the stadium; and for ultrasound it is well-known that they have best available technology for MSK pathology.