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Significance of Asymptomatic Tendon Pathology in Athletes

Splittgerber, Lauren E. MD; Ihm, Joseph M. MD

Current Sports Medicine Reports: June 2019 - Volume 18 - Issue 6 - p 192–200
doi: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000600
Training, Prevention, and Rehabilitation/Section Articles

Symptomatic tendinopathy can be a disabling condition for athletes. Common sites of tendinopathy in athletes include the rotator cuff (RTC), Achilles, and patellar tendons. Advanced imaging modalities, such as magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound occasionally identify tendinopathic changes in asymptomatic individuals. Such asymptomatic changes have been documented in the RTC, Achilles, and patellar tendons of athletes. In the RTC, tendinopathy, partial-, and full-thickness tears have been demonstrated in asymptomatic athletes, though only small numbers of these athletes may develop symptoms despite prolonged periods of ongoing, competitive play. In the Achilles and patellar tendons, neovascularization, hypoechogenicity, and tendon thickening are commonly noted findings in asymptomatic athletes, and though all have been associated with tendon pain in the literature, there is some inconsistency as to which are the strongest predictors of future tendon pain. Evidence on how best to address or intervene upon such asymptomatic changes is limited.

McGaw Medical Center of Northwestern University/Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, Chicago, IL

Address for correspondence: Joseph M. Ihm, MD, Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, 355 E. Erie Street, Chicago, IL 60611; E-mail:

Copyright © 2019 by the American College of Sports Medicine.