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Rise in Treating Sports Injuries Leads to Sports and Trauma Imaging Fellowship at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston


HOUSTON—(Aug. 2008)—Responding to a growing number of patients with sports-related injuries, a newly named Sports, Orthopedic and Emergency Imaging Fellowship has been established in the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Imaging at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

UT Medical School at Houston radiologists who have routinely dealt with multiple, traumatic injuries from accidents are now spending a great deal of time imaging and treating athletes from Little Leaguers to aging Baby Boomers to the Houston Rockets.

“The nature of the practice began to change last year with the opening of Memorial Hermann Sports Medicine,” said O. Clark West, M.D., associate professor of radiology, chief of emergency radiology and director of the fellowship program. “We began to see a large sports medicine practice. I think our fellowship is the only one like it in the country.”

Memorial Hermann Sports Medicine, located in Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza in the Texas Medical Center, opened in January 2007. Memorial Hermann is the official healthcare provider for the Houston Rockets, Comets and Aeros and Rice University athletics.

“The huge advantage with this fellowship is the interactive way we work with the team physicians and the athletes,” said Manickam Kumaravel, M.D., assistant professor of radiology, who was a surgeon before he became a radiologist. His specialty is musculoskeletal imaging.

Kumaravel said radiologists use the Tessla 3 magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to image “high-end athletes.”

“It gives us a huge amount of detail,” he said.

Last year’s fellow Silanath Peungjesada, M.D., said it is not uncommon to see non-professional athletes in their 20s and 30s with joint problems, as well as gymnasts and cheerleaders.

“These are people who exercise a lot,” Peungiesada said.

Radiologists are doing more interventional procedures, such as ultrasound-guided injections of therapeutical agents including anesthetics and lubricants into and around ailing joints. The radiology team has gone from doing 14 joint treatments a year to three or four a day.

“The most common are hips and shoulders, but we also treat a lot of wrists, knees and ankles,” Kumaravel said. “With tendon inflammation, you have to be very careful to guide the medication to a site close to the tendon without hitting the tendon, which could rupture it.”

Radiologists are also working with physicians to match pre-surgery images with the color film taking during the surgery to see how their readings of black and white images translate to the actual damage.
“We can get direct feedback,” Kumaravel said.

Juan Ramos, M.D., and Jin Kim, M.D., are the first Sports, Orthopedic and Emergency Imaging Fellows at the medical school. The fellowship began in July.

“Being able to work as a team with the surgeons and the athletes on a daily basis helps us make a more accurate report about the injury, leading to less risk, less complications and a smaller scar,” Ramos said.

The Texas Medical Board approved the name change earlier this year. The Sports, Orthopedic and Emergency Imaging Fellowship replaces and expands the scope of diagnostic imaging training previously offered in the Emergency Radiology Fellowship, which was established in the early 1980s.

With increased opportunities for training in sports medicine, graduates of the new fellowship will be well-trained to provide expert imaging care for any injured patient, whether the injuries are life-threatening internal injuries sustained in a high-speed car crash, or joint injuries sustained in a professional sporting event, West said.


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