Football season is officially here, and all across the country, fans could not be more excited! Football season is a time to ignite rivalries, kick back for tailgating, and compete with coworkers in that competitive fantasy football league. Any dedicated football fan knows that there’s one thing that can truly ruin the NFL season – injuries. Injuries are common and are unavoidable in the sport of the National Football League. Because keeping players healthy on the field is one of the most important things in keeping the game going. Imaging takes center stage on and off the field by diagnosing player injuries faster and with more accuracy than ever before. Here we’ll discuss medical imaging’s growing role in the NFL and the important role it plays as we gear up for the 2021 NFL season this month.
All 32 NFL teams have x-ray machines inside their stadiums as medical imaging plays a crucial role in quickly and accurately diagnosing injuries and concussions, a common football head injury. Most teams have X-ray technologists on standby at the stadiums during games to conduct imaging on both the home team and the opponent’s team anytime an imaging exam is needed. While most teams don’t have an onsite radiologist, each has a dedicated offsite radiologist that is “on call” to read the images and make quick diagnoses before, after, and during the games.
Most stadiums have made significant upgrades in recent years to their x-ray equipment with digital images. Imaging results are often achieved in just 6-7 seconds and transmitted digitally via a cloud-based platform so radiologist and specialist can see the x-rays as well as coaches and trainers on the sidelines. Having these digital units onsite gives immediate results about a player’s injury to let the team physician know if the player can be kept in or out of the game. Leading experts in sports medicine and orthopedics cited in Injuries and Health Problems in Football that when a shoulder dislocation occurs and is confirmed, it is much easier to reduce, or manipulate, the shoulder back into place in the first few minutes after dislocation to avoid intense pain and muscle spasms. Therefore, an immediate X-ray to confirm diagnosis and rule out fracture can reduce time to return the shoulder to its normal position
As awareness about the importance of on onsite imaging grows, some teams are starting to take things further, adding MRI and CT onsite, in addition to the traditional x-ray machine. In Training a & Conditioning , some teams are also adding new FDA approved Portable compact imaging equipment that is completely battery powered that can even be taken to the sideline or playing field. The NFL has also created stricter rules to determine protocols after a player suffers a concussion, which includes additional imaging devices on hand for players. NFL radiology has also evolved in terms of protocols and the images they are able to obtain making it easier to diagnose concussions more quickly.
The Monday After...
Since Sundays are the big day for most NFL games, it's no surprise that Mondays are often the day that players are sent in for additional more extensive imaging exams. Since most facilities don't have MRI or CT equipment on hand at the stadium, this means that it's often the following day that a player is sent in for additional testing. MRI’s are one of the most common scans for football players to undergo after sustaining an injury. MRI’s are useful for analyzing muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues. CT Scans can also be used for orthopedic and traumatic injuries as well.
Importance of Pre-Screening
Professional athletes, especially football players, often have many pre-existing injuries and this plays a significant role in understanding the nature of a player's health. Degenerative and post-traumatic injuries are common in professional athletes. It's for this reason that medical staff for NFL teams often undertake pre-screening processes on current and potential players. Many teams take medical professionals to NFL combines where future football players are subjected not only to athletic proficiency testing but also to medical testing. Some teams even analyze the health of players before a season starts so medical professionals have a frame of reference when looking at test results that have resulted from an injury during the game.
Over the past few decades, the advances in imaging technology have allowed teams and medical professionals to have a better understanding of injuries and what that might mean for a player's availability and their recovery process. The next time you sit down to watch a football and you see the injury reports, keep in mind the fascinating role of medical imaging in the sport. For all your Radiology & MRI accessories needs, let Z&Z Medical be a part of your team.