Objective: To determine the prevalence of abnormal structural findings using 3.0-T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the asymptomatic knees of male and female collegiate basketball players before and after a season of high-intensity basketball.
Design: Institutional review board-approved prospective case series.
Participants: Asymptomatic knees of 24 NCAA Division I collegiate basketball players (12 male, 12 female) were imaged using a 3.0-T MRI scanner before and after the end of the competitive season. Three subjects did not undergo scanning after the season.
Main outcome measures: Images were evaluated for prepatellar bursitis, fat pad edema, patellar and quadriceps tendinopathy, bone marrow edema, and articular cartilage and meniscal injury.
Results: Every knee imaged had at least 1 structural abnormality both preseason and postseason. A high preseason and postseason prevalence of fat pad edema (75% and 81%), patellar tendinopathy (83% and 90%), and quadriceps tendinopathy (75% and 90%) was seen. Intrameniscal signal change was observed in 50% preseason knees and 62% of postseason knees, but no discrete tears were found. Bone marrow edema was seen in 75% and 86% of knees in the preseason and postseason, respectively. Cartilage findings were observed in 71% and 81% of knees in the preseason and postseason, respectively. The cartilage injury score increased significantly in the postseason compared with the preseason (P = 0.0009).
Conclusions: A high prevalence of abnormal knee MRI findings was observed in a population of asymptomatic young elite athletes. These preliminary data suggest that high-intensity basketball may have potentially deleterious effects on articular cartilage.