Purpose: To determine the prevalence of pathologic findings in asymptomatic knees of marathon runners before and after a competition in comparison with physically active subjects. To compare the diagnostic performance of cartilage-dedicated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sequences at 3.0 T.
Materials and methods: Ten marathon runners underwent 3.0 T MRI 2-3 days before and after competition. Twelve physically active asymptomatic subjects not performing long-distance running were examined as controls. Pathologic condition was assessed with the whole-organ magnetic resonance imaging score (WORMS). Cartilage abnormalities and bone marrow edema pattern (BMEP) were quantified. Visualization of cartilage pathology was assessed with intermediate-weighted fast spin-echo (IM-w FSE), fast imaging employing steady-state acquisition (FIESTA) and T1-weighted three-dimensional (3D) high-spatial-resolution volumetric fat-suppressed spoiled gradient-echo (SPGR) MRI sequences.
Results: Eight of ten marathon runners and 7/12 controls showed knee abnormality. Slightly more and larger cartilage abnormalities, and BMEP, in marathon runners yielded higher but not significantly different WORMS (P > 0.05) than in controls. Running a single marathon did not alter MR findings substantially. Cartilage abnormalities were best visualized with IM-w FSE images (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: A high prevalence of knee abnormalities was found in marathon runners and also in active subjects participating in other recreational sports. IM-w FSE sequences delineated more cartilage MR imaging abnormalities than did FIESTA and SPGR sequences.