In our previous blog posts we have written on the limitations of MRI for many injuries and conditions. In general, these expensive tests have high rates of false positives where patients without pain often have positive results including ligament/labrum tears or tendon changes. The incidence of false of positives increases in athletes with the majority of major league baseball players, regardless of symptoms, demonstrating rotator cuff tears or labrum injury. It appears these changes are no different in our little leaguers.
An article in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery examined 10-13 year old little league baseball players. Each player underwent an MRI on both elbows at the start of the season. The authors found many of the players with or without pain had imaging findings in their elbow. Adding to our existing data that many athletes have positive MRI findings without pain or injury. Two factors were associated with a positive MRI and elbow pain including year round baseball play and working with a private pitching coach.
Athletes are encouraged to work with a local Physical Therapist to treat their elbow pain and reduce their risk of throwing injuries.