By Joe Meloni for Body1
Dr. James Cook, a researcher at the University of Missouri, will use a $120,000 grant from the National Football League (NFL) to research the diagnosis of meniscus injuries, according to several sources.
Currently, diagnosing injuries to the meniscus is both expensive and time consuming for both the patient and doctor. It typically involves either arthroscopy
or an magnetic resonance imagery
(MRI) scan. The research at UM will focus on developing minimally invasive procedures to quickly diagnose damage to the meniscus, the soft tissue in the knee that regulates balance and weight distribution.
Cook and his team at Missouri’s Comparative Orthopedic Laboratory have advanced the diagnosis of knee injuries and hope to develop a simple test to identify meniscal damage.
“This meniscal diagnosis project funded by NFL Charities fits perfectly with these missions,” Cook tells the Kansas City Info-Zine, a user-driven news source. “The research that we are doing at MU is improving the way we diagnose and treat joint problems in elite athletes, as well as individuals of all levels of activity.”
The NFL has donated nearly $20 million to various medical research projects over the last nine years, according to the Associated Press.
At the moment, it is nearly impossible to judge the level of damage without arthroscopic surgery or an MRI. Developing a minimally invasive test will allow doctors to assess damage and treatment options faster. Cook and his team plan to verify the effectiveness of an ultrasound-based test used to diagnose similar problems in dogs. Cook also plans to research a method for analyzing the quality of the meniscal tissue as part of the study. Treatment options vary based on the strength of the tissue. A weaker meniscus may require removal following a tear and further options to be considered.
“We are working hard to help cure the joint disorders common in people and animals,” Cook said. “Our team is dedicated to putting great science behind optimal delivery of care for all patients, two-legged and four-legged.”
While his primary professional focus in veterinary medicine, Cook will shifts his focus to humans in this study. Still, any advances made will also apply to his non-human patients.
“Quite frankly, I’m never going to get an NFL grant for working on dogs, but the work that we’ll do through the NFL grant will benefit dogs,” Cook said in an interview with The Columbia Missourian. “So as a vet and a scientist that’s working on the human side, it’s win-win for me because I’m able to get funding, I’m able to help people and, at the same time, I’m going to bring it back and apply it to my patients.”
Meniscus tears generally occur when quickly shifting the knee while bearing weight. Since meniscus pain is known to disappear on its own, developing a test that does not require any form of extended hospital stay is vital. Patients often conclude that their knee has healed completely only to experience the pain again later and worse.
“The problem is that the nature and extent of the injury is nearly impossible to determine until the MRI and arthroscopy procedures are performed, leaving the player, coach, and medical personnel uncertain of whether the player can or should continue to play, what treatment will be required, and what the prognosis is,” Cook said.
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