Natural History of Cervical Spondylosis in Elite Athletes: The Relationship Between Chronic Use, Degeneration & Pain

Principal Investigator: Lubdha Shah
Keywords: Athlete , Runner , Cyclist , Control Group , Magnetic Resonance Imaging Department: Radiology Clinical
IRB Number: 00064260 Co Investigator: Erica  Bisson
Specialty: Neurosurgery, Radiology, Radiology
Sub Specialties: Neuroradiology, Magnetic Resonance Imaging – MRI
Recruitment Status: Not yet recruiting

Contact Information

Charles Latner
(801) 587-8638

Brief Summary

Our goal is define magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) changes in the cervical spine (disc and discogenic endplate changes) of two groups of elite athletes after at least ten years of competition and to correlate these findings with clinical impairment scales. We will recruit a total of 15 volunteers between the ages of 30-50 with no history of significant neck pain (more than 1 episode per year lasting more than 48 hours); 5 patients with who do not engage in regular exercise; 5,which will be defined as the elite running group (having run at least 30 miles/week for at least 8 months of the year for the at least 10 years consecutively), and 5 elite cyclists (defined as having cycled at least 50 miles/week for at least 8 months of the year for at least 10 years consecutively). Each individual will have a limited cervical MRI study consisting of sagittal T2-weighted and diffusion weighted images (DWI). The Pfirrmann criteria of lumbar degenerative disc disease will be extrapolated based on the T2 weighted images to characterize cervical degenerative changes. Similarly, as studies have shown decreased diffusion in degenerated discs in vivo compared with healthy controls, the DWI images will be evaluated for changes in diffusion. Volunteers will also fill out clinical questionnaires including the Visual Analog Scale (VAS), Neck Disability Index (NDI), and Euroqol 5D ( a quality of life measurement tool)

Inclusion Criteria

Participants must be engaged in regular physical exercise: elite running 30 miles/wk or elite cycling 50 miles/wk for 8 months/year for past 10 years.

Ages 30-50, of either gender. 

Only 1 episode of neck pain lasting less than 48 hours is allowed per year. 


Exclusion Criteria

Ages less than 30 or greater than 50 years of age.

Participants not meeting elite activity criteria.

Neck pain more than 48 hours in duration.


Prior neck surgery or injuries to neck.

Contraindications to Magnetic Resonance Imaging