Knees of Ironman triathletes: magnetic resonance imaging assessment of older (>35 years old) competitors

J Magn Reson Imaging. 2003 Jan;17(1):122-30. doi: 10.1002/jmri.10234.


Purpose: To use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to evaluate the knees of older (>35 years old), competitive Ironman triathletes to determine the prevalence of abnormal findings.

Materials and methods: The knees of 29 Ironman triathletes (20 men, 9 women; age range, 35-66 years old) were studied by MRI. The findings were analyzed collectively and categorized into group I (N = 13), subjects without prior knee injuries and symptoms, and group II (N = 16), subjects with prior knee injuries and/or current symptoms.

Results: Ten percent of the knees had ligamentous abnormalities, but the prevalence was not statistically different comparing group I to group II. Fifty-five percent had abnormal menisci. The overall prevalence of abnormal menisci was significantly higher in group II (69%) than in group I (38%, P < 0.05). Cartilage abnormalities were found in 21% of the triathletes with a higher prevalence in group II (31%) than in group I (8%, P < 0.05). Twenty-one percent (6/29) of the knees had bone contusions, with a higher prevalence in group II (31%) than in group I (8%, P < 0.05).

Conclusion: In general, the spectrum of abnormal MRI findings of the knee was no greater than age-related changes previously reported for other athletic populations and nonathletes. These results have important implications for the diagnostic use of MRI of the knee in this high-endurance, athletic population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / anatomy & histology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sports*