Purpose: To prospectively evaluate changes in T1rho and T2 relaxation time in the meniscus using 3.0 T MRI in asymptomatic knees of marathon runners and to compare these findings with those of age-matched healthy subjects.
Material and methods: Thirteen marathon runners underwent 3.0 T MRI including T1rho and T2 mapping sequences before, 48-72 h after, and 3 months after competition. Ten controls were examined at baseline and after 3 months. All images were analyzed by two musculoskeletal radiologists identifying and grading cartilage, meniscal, ligamentous. and other knee abnormalities with WORMS scores. Meniscal segmentation was performed to generate T1rho and T2 maps in six compartments.
Results: No differences in morphological knee abnormalities were found before and after the marathon. However, all marathon runners showed a significant increase in T1rho and T2 values after competition in all meniscus compartments (p < 0.0001), which may indicate changes in the biochemical composition of meniscal tissue. While T2 values decreased after 3 months T1rho values remained at a high level, indicating persisting changes in the meniscal matrix composition after a marathon.
Conclusion: T2 values in menisci have the potential to be used as biomarkers for identifying reversible meniscus matrix changes indicating potential tissue damage. T1rho values need further study, but may be a valuable marker for diagnosing early, degenerative changes in the menisci following exercise.