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MRI’s overused in Sports Injuries?

In a previous article, we highlighted the issue of MRIs scan leading to un-necessary back surgeries (Does more MRI scanners do more good or harm?).  The issue now seems to be spreading to the sporting arena.

Shoulder Impingement

A sports medicine orthopedist, Dr. James Andrews, wanted to test his suspicion that M.R.I. scans given to almost every injured athlete or casual exerciser, might be a bit misleading.  He MRI-ed 31 pitchers who were perfectly healthy, and had no problems with pain, discomfort, or performance in their pitching arm.  As suspected, the MRI picked up problems in the rotator cuff and shoulder cartilage of nearly 90 percent of these asymptomatic pitchers.  For more about this story, read “Sports Medicine Said to Overuse M.R.I.’s”

This is a disturbing trend in medicine where we develop and build ever increasingly more accurate or more precise machines but our diagnostic ability to interpret the results is not always developing at the same pace. This phenomenon is known as “false precision” in science and engineering fields where data is presented in a manner that implies better precision than is actually the case; since precision is a limit to accuracy, this often leads to overconfidence in the accuracy as well.

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