Although diagnostic tests are very commonly used in sports injuries, runners totally underutilise it. The value of early diagnosis and treatment is the determining factor for shortening the recovery period.

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Tests of importance to sportsmen are ultrasound, X-rays and MRI. Very few people know the difference between these tests.

Ultrasound can be used for treatment of injuries, but diagnostic ultrasound is of value for investigation. Diagnostic imaging makes it possible to view tendons, muscles, bone surfaces, nerves and vessels without radiation. An ultrasonic frequency is transmitted through the tissues to generate an image, hence the name “ultrasound”. The test is done quickly and is relatively inexpensive when compared to other diagnostic tests. Diagnosis can be made on the spot and enables the physiotherapist to direct treatment in a specific direction in hours.

X-Rays are generally used to exclude the possibility of a fracture, or to screen the lungs. The risk of radiation is fairly minimal, but the use of it should be minimised.

MRI is an abbreviation for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. MRI makes the visualisation of internal body structures possible in more detail than ultrasound or x-rays. It is design to detect bony abnormalities, nerve roots, spinal discs, joint structures and any soft tissue masses. This test is the most expensive and must be requested by a specialist.

Speculating about a diagnosis often wastes time and delays recovery. If a health care provider advises a diagnostic test, do so ASAP.

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