A comparison between clinical assessment and magnetic resonance imaging of acute hamstring injuries

Am J Sports Med. 2006 Jun;34(6):1008-15. doi: 10.1177/0363546505283835. Epub 2006 Feb 13.


Background: Physicians evaluating hamstring strains in professional football players are increasingly turning to magnetic resonance imaging to support the clinical diagnosis and management of the injury. However, little information is available to assess how magnetic resonance imaging compares with the clinical evaluation in establishing the duration of rehabilitation required.

Hypothesis: Magnetic resonance imaging of hamstring strains can be useful in determining duration of rehabilitation.

Study design: Cohort study (Diagnosis); Level of evidence, 1.

Methods: Fifty-eight professional football players with a diagnosis of hamstring injury made by the team physician were enrolled in the study. All players underwent magnetic resonance imaging and a clinical evaluation by an independent physical therapist within 3 days of the injury. Presence, type, and location of injury were recorded in each examination. The physical therapist estimated the time required until return to competition, and the radiologist used the length of the injury (coronal view) to establish rehabilitation duration. Both clinicians were blinded to the other modality.

Results: Clinical and magnetic resonance imaging assessments were in agreement in 38 of 58 cases (65.5%). In 18 cases (31.0%), a clinically positive diagnosis was made, but no abnormalities were evident on magnetic resonance imaging. In 2 cases (3.4%), magnetic resonance imaging detected an injury, whereas the clinical examination had negative or equivocal findings. Both clinical examination and magnetic resonance imaging findings were strongly correlated with the actual time required to return to competition (r = .69, P < .001 and r = .58, P < .001, respectively). The correlation coefficient between clinical predictions and magnetic resonance imaging findings was moderate (r = .36, P = .006).

Conclusion: This study shows that magnetic resonance imaging is not required for estimating the duration of rehabilitation of an acute minor or moderate hamstring injury in professional football players.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Athletic Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Football / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Thigh / injuries*
  • Thigh / pathology
  • Time Factors