Ultrasound in Sports Medicine

Did you know that an estimated 3.5 million children 14 and under get hurt playing sports every year? Or, that 20% (i.e. 2 million) of all injuries seen in the emergency room are sports related? These injuries are most commonly arms, legs, head, neck or back related and are the causes of months, or perhaps years, of physical therapy and pain. However, thanks to advances in medicine, many therapists have begun introducing ultrasound as a means to alleviate pain.

By definition, ultrasound therapy uses deep heat and is useful in treating deeper muscle injuries as well as those closer to the surface. When using ultrasound, a physical therapist will press a wand, referred to as a sound head, gently to the patient’s skin and move in small circles near the injury.

The ultrasound machines help increase local blood flow, relaxes tissues and helps to facilitate the healing of scar tissue. When combined with other forms of therapy, the healing and therapy process can be shortened, and one can return to daily activities more quickly. Some of the injuries that can be treated using ultrasound include:

·      Sprains

·      Strains

·      Tendonitis – especially in post ACL reconstruction patients

·      Joint Aspirations

·      Corticosteroid injections

·      Viscosupplementation/hyaluronic acid injections

·      Platelet Rich Plasma injections

·      Hydrodissection for nerve impingement of the carpal tunnel

Ultrasound may also be combined with TENS (Transcutaneous electrical Nerve Stimulation) to aid in the healing process. It is typically used as a low intensity pulse ultrasound with a smaller soundhead applicator to help reduce the pain, while promoting tendon and bone healing in patients who have undergone ACL reconstruction.

The top 7 ways that ultrasound is used in sports medicine are:

1.    Soccer – ACL tears

2.    Tennis – The most common injury in this sport is lateral epicondylitis. A study conducted by Oxford University found that pulsed ultrasound reduced the pain associated with chronic tennis elbow.

3.    Football – Although concussions are the most common football injury, injuries such as lower back pain occur quite often. A study by BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders found that the pain due to back related injuries was lessened when therapeutic ultrasound was combined with electrical stimulation.

4.    Golf – The most commonly treated golf injury treated by ultrasound is carpal tunnel pain.

5.    Skiing – Opposite of soccer, the most common injury is an MCL tear, which can lead to pain, swelling, stiffness and weakness in the knee of lower leg.

6.    Basketball – As one might expect, the most common injury is a sprain or strain on the ankle. Using low intensity ultrasound therapy can reduce pain and inflammation and also improve ligament repair.

7.    Martial Arts –  The most common use of ultrasound for martial arts is in treating sprains and strains of the knees, ankles, elbows, and shoulder. While it can be used as a stand-alone procedure, it may be combined with electrical stimulation to help reduce pain and swelling.

If you are looking for a way to extend your physical therapy clinics treatment options, then an ultrasound machine is a great investment. It can be combined with other forms of therapy, and provide patients a faster transition to everyday life. If you have questions about the right ultrasound system for your facility, talk to one of our National Ultrasound consultants today.