September 2022 launched us into history in the making as the world watched one of the greatest of our time command the tennis court for what is thought to be her last match. Serena Williams’ announcement that she would likely be “evolving away” from the sport after the US Open attracted the largest crowd of any tennis match in ESPN’s 43-year history. Win or lose, fans were determined to be a part of what might be Williams’ final entrance on her grand stage.
The fans were not only eager to witness history in the making, but they missed Williams in action at the previous tournament. In 2021, she could not participate in the US Open due to injury. The legend’s coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, explained that a torn hamstring Williams had suffered during that year’s Wimbledon match in June, had not fully recovered in time to participate. Though recovery was progressing well, scans confirmed that the tear on the tendon required more time to achieve complete healing. Although Williams admitted she would miss taking part, she recognized full muscle recovery must take precedence to ensure she would not sustain further injury.
Injuries like this are a norm on the courts. It is to such a degree that point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) has earned a permanent sideline seat at the US Open. Since 2013, Mount Sinai Hospital in New York has dedicated imaging services to the annual tournament. In 2015, the hospital added POCUS to the imaging roster at the games. Dr. Carlos Benitez leads the team of tournament doctors onsite who are prepared to handle injuries in real-time. He attributes the need for POCUS at the courts to its efficiency and ability to offer physicians quick musculoskeletal diagnosis.
POCUS has often been utilized to tend to athletes instantaneously during this high-intense event. From 2015 to 2021, 339 scans were conducted at the stadium. That’s about 50 scans per US Open. Injuries to the muscle and tendons are the most common occurrences among players. The thighs and abdominal wall are the regions most scanned. Just to reemphasize the value of POCUS on the courts, during this same time frame, only a total of 89 MRIs have been conducted, averaging about 11 per year.
When asked about the benefit of having POCUS onsite, Dr. Benitez shared three critical advantages the medical team and athletes experience.
- The treatment workflow is streamlined. Therefore efficiency is increased, and diagnosis time is shorter.
- Communication between the athlete’s medical team and radiologists on site is efficient and improved.
- Radiology reports are more consistent due to having a single person in charge of all imaging modalities.
Dr. Dae Hyoun Jeong tends to agree with these sentiments. He hosted the poster session, The Value of Utilizing POCUS in International Sporting Events From World Taekwondo’s Experience, at the 2022 POCUS World Conference. In his session, Dr. Jeong illustrated indications of POCUS in sports-related acute injuries and illnesses, shared how to utilize POCUS in resource-limited international sporting event settings, and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of using onsite POCUS at international-level sporting events.
In his presentation, Dr. Jeong highlighted the background of medical care at live athletic events. In the past, healthcare providers volunteering at these events faced numerous acute traumas and musculoskeletal injuries. Imaging modalities such as x-ray, CTs, or MRIs weren’t available, leading to unnecessary transfer of athletes to other facilities to obtain a diagnosis. The introduction of POCUS at sporting arenas provided a portable and less expensive solution, offering quality imaging and immediate implementation of care for injured athletes.
Similar to the US Open, the Muju World Taekwondo Championships has relied on POCUS since 2017 and integrated the pocket-size device into its World Taekwondo (WT) medical team. Dr. Jeong has chaired the WT Medical Committee for five years and has seen the impacts of this adoption on the sport. Having POCUS onsite during competition allowed providers to make more precise diagnoses, significantly decreasing the number of unnecessary hospital transfers and identifying severe injuries promptly. In short, it’s working!
The summary boils down to this; POCUS improves the management of acute sport-related injuries. Willimas isn’t the only one making history. POCUS is blazing its own trail and taking the world of sports head-on. It is clear that POCUS serves not only the bedside but the sidelines as well.
Learn more about how you can prepare for the POCUS takeover! Visit our POCUS Education Resource page.
Casey, B. (2022). POCUS serves an ace at US Open tennis tournament. AuntMinnie.com. Retrieved Oct 10, 2022 from https://www.auntminnie.com/index.aspx?sec=ser&sub=def&pag=dis&ItemID=136528