Tendinopathy is frequently associated with structural disorganization within the tendon. As such, the clinical use of ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging for tendinopathy has been the focus of numerous academic studies and clinical discussions. However, similar to other musculoskeletal conditions (osteoarthritis and intervertebral disc degeneration), there is no direct link between tendon structural disorganization and clinical symptoms, with findings on imaging potentially creating a confusing clinical picture. While imaging shows the presence and extent of structural changes within the tendon, the clinical interpretation of the images requires context in regard to the features of pain and the aggravating loads. This review will critically evaluate studies that have investigated the accuracy and sensitivity of imaging in the detection of clinical tendinopathy and the methodological issues associated with these studies (subject selection, lack of a robust gold standard, reliance on subjective measures). The advent of new imaging modalities allowing for the quantification of tendon structure or mechanical properties has allowed new critical insight into tendon pathology. A strength of these novel modalities is the ability to quantify properties of the tendon. Research utilizing ultrasound tissue characterization and sonoelastography will be discussed. This narrative review will also attempt to synthesize current research on whether imaging can predict the onset of pain or clinical outcome, the role of monitoring tendon structure during rehabilitation (ie, does tendon structure need to improve to get a positive clinical outcome?), and future directions for research, and to propose the clinical role of imaging in tendinopathy.
Objectives Forearm injuries are common and debilitating to elite rowers. Chronic exertional compartment syndrome, intersection syndrome and proximal radial bone stress injuries have been documented in this population. This paper explores the imaging findings related to these conditions in asymptomatic elite rowers. Design Observational study. Methods 19 asymptomatic senior elite and under-23 rowers currently competing at National level or above underwent ultrasound (US), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and muscle functional MRI evaluation of their forearms. A comprehensive evaluation sheet identifying characteristics of bone stress, intersection syndrome and chronic exertional compartment syndrome was utilised based on a literature search and review by senior clinicians working with this population. Results Peritendinous fluid of Extensor Carpi Radialis Longus (n=10, 53%) or Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis (n=6, 32%) was a common finding on US. MRI had a higher rate of identification than US. Extensor Digitorum (Coeff=−1.76, 95%CI −3.04 to −0.49), Flexor Carpi Radialis (Coeff=−2.86, 95%CI −5.35 to −0.38) and Flexor Carpi Ulnaris (Coeff=−3.31, 95%CI −5.30 to −1.32), Pronator Teres (Coeff=−3.94, 95%CI −6.89 to −0.99), and Supinator (Coeff=−168, 95%CI −3.28 to −0.02) showed statistically significant changes immediately post-exercise. Mild proximal radial marrow hyperintensity was present (n=15, 78.9%) with three participants (15.8%) also having mild periosteal oedema of the radius. Conclusions Imaging findings commonly seen in symptomatic populations are observed in elite, asymptomatic rowers. Care should be taken when diagnosing bone stress injuries, intersection syndrome and compartment syndrome on imaging findings alone. Data presented can be utilised as a normative dataset for future case studies.