PURPOSE: To determine the frequency of hematopoietic hyperplasia on spinal magnetic resonance (MR) images in endurance athletes and to correlate MR alterations with clinical parameters. MATERIALS AND METHODS: In 15 endurance athletes, MR images of the lumbar spine were analyzed for hematopoietic hyperplasia; vertebral T1 and T2 were determined. Bone mineral density (BMD) was determined, blood tests were performed, and maximum oxygen consumption (VO2max) was measured. RESULTS: Nine subjects showed evidence of hematopoietic hyperplasia: Eight showed T1 prolongation, and six had patchy or diffuse T1 hypointensity. No definite correlation existed between hematopoietic hyperplasia and duration of training, hematologic results, or VO2max levels. Borderline significance existed between hematopoietic hyperplasia and anemia (P = .103) and intensity of training (P = .09). BMD had no statistically significant effect on T1. CONCLUSION: Changes in BMD do not appear to contribute to MR marrow changes that are consistent with hematopoietic hyperplasia. Depleted iron reserves or increased hematopoiesis probably contribute to hematopoietic hyperplasia in endurance athletes.
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