Imagine that water had to be collected from a bucket in a well, and it requires a person to pull on a rope from over the side of the well. Day after day, as they continue to collect water from that well, the rope attached to the bucket will eventually begin to wear and tear from constant pulling and friction on the wall. After some time, the rope will fray or worse, can snap, giving way to a broken rope with no bucket attached.
“The deterioration of the rope is in essence what happens to the joints and tendons of some competitive athletes who develop tendinopathy, particularly affecting the patellar tendon,” said Dr. Robert Sallis, Co-Director of Sports Medicine Fellowship at Kaiser Permanente. “These athletes can suffer from either a partial tear of the tendon or sometimes a complete tear, which then requires surgery.”
Patellar tendonitis is an inflammation of the patellar (knee cap) tendon, typically caused by overuse. It is sometimes called “jumper’s knee” since it most commonly affects athletes who play sports where there is a lot of jumping, such as basketball, track & field, volleyball or soccer. As such, some elite athletes have experienced this type of injury in their careers, affecting their joint health and ability to participate in their sport.
For the National Basketball Association (NBA), they are committed to maintaining the health and wellness of their players to help prevent, diagnose and treat these types of injuries. In July 2015, they launched a research collaboration with GE Healthcare to work with leading clinical researchers and physicians who have demonstrated excellence in orthopedics, sports medicine, radiology, and related disciplines.
During the 2014-2015 NBA regular season, one of the top injuries among players was knee injury at 13.5%, and this is no different for the weekend warriors or fitness enthusiasts who participate in organized sports or fitness training in their spare time. Among adults ages 25-40, the most common injuries in baseball, soccer and softball were fractured or sprained ankles and knees (1). This also can be particularly true for adolescents who participate in organized sports through school or extracurricular activities. It’s reported that sports-related injuries make up about 20% of all injury-related emergency department visits among children ages 6 to 19 (2).
Training and competing professionally in a specific sport like baseball or track & field can take a toll on an athlete’s body, which is why many doctors and sports medicine experts recommend that athletes participate in a variety of sports in order to avoid overuse of the tendons as with patellar tendinosis.
“Good scientific studies show that when a young athlete only participates in a single sport month after month, that child is at serious risk of sustaining a recurring or overuse injury. These injuries can jeopardize the athlete’s ability to play that sport at a high level in the future,” explained Dr. Andrew Gottschalk Director of Primary Care Sports Medicine of the Ochsner Health System. “If that young athlete instead plays several sports, this exercise diversification dramatically reduces the risk of injury. It’s important to familiarize the musculoskeletal system with other sports to maintain the health of the joints and tendons.”
GE and the NBA are looking for recommendations like these and more, including prevention and treatment programs like physical therapy and strength and conditioning routines. In November they launched the first call for research proposals for tendinopathy.
This call for research proposals seeks to address the natural history of tendinopathy in competitive athletes, the anatomic and dynamic factors that can lead to a negative impact on training or game play and the interventions that can be effective for prevention and treatment. Future calls for research proposals may address bone stress injuries, articular cartilage injury, and other important musculoskeletal issues affecting NBA players.
By combining strong data analytics, expertise in healthcare and a commitment to player health and safety, GE Healthcare and the NBA hope to garner research ideas that help prevent, diagnose and treat commons sports injuries of athletes of all levels across the world. For more information about this call for proposals and/or the application process, please visit the website at http://bit.ly/1iY9jO9.
Dr. Sallis and Dr. Gottschalk are both members of the GE/NBA collaboration’s Strategic Advisory Board and serve as Co-Chairs of Outreach and Education.