CONTEXT: Sidelines coverage presents unique challenges in the evaluation of injured athletes. Health care providers may be confronted with the question of when to obtain radiographs following an injury. Given that most sidelines coverage occurs outside the elite level, radiographs are not readily available at the time of injury, and the decision of when to send a player for radiographs must be made based on physical examination. Clinical tools have been developed to aid in identifying injuries that are likely to result in radiographically important fractures or dislocations. EVIDENCE ACQUISITION: A search for the keywords x-ray and decision rule along with the anatomic locations shoulder, elbow, wrist, knee, and ankle was performed using the PubMed database. No limits were set regarding year of publication. We selected meta-analyses, randomized controlled trials, and survey results. Our selection focused on the largest, most well-studied published reports. We also attempted to include studies that reported the application of the rules to the field of sports medicine. STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective literature review. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level 4. RESULTS: The Ottawa Foot and Ankle Rules have been validated and implemented and are appropriate for use in both pediatric and adult populations. The Ottawa Knee Rules have been widely studied, validated, and accepted for evaluation of knee injuries. There are promising studies of decision rules for clinically important fractures of the wrist, but these studies have not been validated. The elbow has been evaluated with good outcomes via the elbow extension test, which has been validated in both single and multicenter studies. Currently, there are no reliable clinical decision tools for traumatic sports injuries to the shoulder to aid in the decision of when to obtain radiographs. CONCLUSION: Clinical decision tools have been developed to aid in the diagnosis and management of injuries commonly sustained during sporting events. Tools that have been appropriately validated in populations outside the initial study population can assist sports medicine physicians in the decision of when to get radiographs from the sidelines.
School of Medicine