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MRI’s Sometimes Cause More Harm than Good for Athletes

March 21st, 2012 – Each year over 28 million MRI’s are performed in the US. The typical cost for an MRI is $1700 plus $240 for someone to review the data, so providers stand to make nearly $2000 per scan. The cost of an MRI machine ranges from $300 to $1 million and some doctors now own their own machines. Clearly, it takes a lot of MRI’s for health care providers to recoup their investment.

While MRI’s are a wonderful tool with many practical uses, they may be used to find relatively minor issues and abnormalities in athletes that are sometimes used to justify surgery that may cause more harm than good. Pain is quite common, particularly with older athletes.  Athletes may be equally well served by resting for 4-6 months than they would be by a surgical solution that may take a year to recover from.

Most “overuse” injuries often heal on their own. Sometimes the best advise is to reduce exercise for a while and see if that helps.

Source: “The Downside of MRI’s” by Gina Kolata

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