The distal radial physis: Exploring normal anatomy on MRI enables interpretation of stress related changes in young gymnasts

Eur J Sport Sci. 2020 Oct;20(9):1197-1205. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2019.1710263. Epub 2020 Jan 12.


Rationale: Explore the MRI-appearance of the healthy distal radial physis and the distribution of stress-related changes in physeal thickness in young gymnasts to aid in the understanding of the pathophysiological process of stress-related physeal injury. Methods: Symptomatic gymnasts with clinically suspected overuse injury of the distal radial physis and age and gender-matched asymptomatic gymnasts and healthy non-gymnasts underwent an MRI-scan of the wrist. A cartilage-specific sequence was used to obtain three-dimensional reconstructions of the distal radial physis. Heat maps and line charts of these reconstructions visualised distribution of physeal thickness per study group and were used to explore differences between study groups. Symptomatic gymnasts displaying the most profound physeal widening (n = 10) were analysed separately. Results: Twenty-seven symptomatic - (skeletal age 12.9 ± 1.5 years), 16 asymptomatic - (skeletal age 12.8 ± 1.9 years) and 23 non-gymnasts (skeletal age 13.6 ± 1.9 years) were included for analysis. Physes of healthy non-gymnasts had a thin centre and increased in thickness towards the borders. Gymnasts demonstrated an increase in thickness of the entire physeal surface. In symptomatic gymnasts increase in physeal thickness was most prominent at the volar side when compared to asymptomatic gymnasts and non-gymnasts. Conclusion: The healthy distal radial physis is characterised by a thin centre surrounded by thicker borders. Stress applied to the wrist during gymnastics causes an overall increase in physeal thickness. Profound thickness increase is present at the volar side of the physis mainly in symptomatic gymnasts. These results can help unravel the pathophysiological mechanism of stress-related physeal injury in gymnasts and aid early injury identification.

Keywords: Bone health; children; health; injury & prevention; musculoskeletal.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / etiology
  • Female
  • Growth Plate / anatomy & histology
  • Growth Plate / diagnostic imaging
  • Gymnastics / injuries
  • Gymnastics / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Radius / anatomy & histology
  • Radius / diagnostic imaging*
  • Radius / injuries
  • Stress, Mechanical