Diagnosing an injury is the first step in developing a treatment plan to get patients back to the activities they love. There are many ways to diagnose an injury, and they usually begin with an evaluation by a physician. A lesser-known form of diagnosing an injury is musculoskeletal ultrasound. Ultrasounds offer several benefits that will make treatment measures more feasible. The following will explain how ultrasounds work, what ultrasounds can diagnose, and what a patient can do to get the proper care.

Musculoskeletal Ultrasound: What is It?

A soccer team in red jerseys huddles together.

The MSK ultrasound is a hand-held device that uses high-frequency sound waves to examine the body and is excellent for orthopedic sports medicine. It can diagnose musculoskeletal injuries of muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and sometimes bones. This unique way of diagnosing pathology is most commonly used by doctors of sports medicine who undergo specific training for using ultrasound through a one-year fellowship in sports medicine after a residency, such as EmergeOrtho—Blue Ridge Region’s Dr. Kyle Judkins.

Diagnostic ultrasound is used in tandem with other imaging modalities such as an X-ray, MRI, or CT to diagnose the underlying pathology fully, but sometimes ultrasound is enough to make the diagnosis. One of the many benefits of the MSK ultrasound is that it does not use radiation, so every patient can be safe. The ultrasound provides immediate images that can make diagnosing an injury visible in minutes.

How Musculoskeletal Ultrasound Helps in Orthopedic Sports Medicine

Though MSK ultrasound can help diagnose injuries in any patient, it helps orthopedic sports doctors get athletes to return to their games as quickly as possible. Common injuries diagnosed through an ultrasound are:


  • Arthritis
  • Rotator Cuff Tears
  • Bursitis


  • Lateral and Medial Epicondylitis
  • Arthritis
  • UCL Tears
  • RCL Tears
  • Dislocation
  • Golfer’s Elbow


  • Tenosynovitis
  • Arthritis
  • Trigger Finger


  • Bursitis
  • Arthritis
  • Hernia
  • Hip impingement


  • Meniscus tears
  • Arthritis
  • Bursitis
  • Sprains
  • Strains


  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Achilles tendinitis
  • Achilles tear
  • Ligament sprains and tears

MSK ultrasounds are also beneficial for other purposes. Other benefits of ultrasound include:

  • Pain-free
  • Alternative to MRI
  • Noninvasive procedure
  • Ability to watch tendons move
  • Cost-friendly

By using ultrasound, physicians can quickly come to a diagnosis of a patient’s injury. Doctors can easily maneuver ultrasounds because of their small size, which means they can perform the ultrasound in their office instead of needing to make a special appointment. With the diagnosis, an athlete can get on the fast track to return to their game.

Ultrasound-Guided Injections

Ultrasound also helps in injection procedures—for example, cortisone shots. Dr. Judkins uses MSK ultrasound to guide injection procedures because injections in joints, tendons, ligaments, muscles, and perineural operations can be done with higher accuracy and less pain when using ultrasound guidance. This allows Dr. Judkins to keep his patients comfortable while he inserts the injections.

In an injection procedure, the ultrasound allows tracking of the needle from the second the needle is inserted into the skin until the needle reaches the target destination. Benefits of ultrasound use in injections include:

  • Reduction of side effects
  • Increase in patient satisfaction
  • More accuracy with injection
  • Improved outcomes

As ultrasound has become more popular with the assistance in injection procedures, many patients request the ultrasound in addition to the injection because of the probability of a more comfortable experience.

How It Works

The process is fairly simple. In an ultrasound exam for MSK injuries, patients will sit on an examination table as the physician presses the hand-held device (transducer) along the patient’s skin to capture images of the injured area. A gel will be spread on the transducer to allow for better contact on the skin. The process takes 15-30 minutes.

Emerge Stronger. Healthier. Better.

Dr. Judkins can help diagnose and provide treatment measures for MSK injuries by using ultrasounds to diagnose conditions. Not many physicians have the training to perform musculoskeletal ultrasounds, so using Dr. Judkins’ expertise will give you the care you deserve. If you or someone you know is looking for a way to get comfortable results or safe injections, self-schedule an appointment or learn more about Dr. Judkins to Emerge Stronger, Healthier, and Better.