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n South African Journal of Sports Medicine - MRI to determine the chronological age of Ghanaian footballers : original research
Background. The chronological age of the ordinary Ghanaian has often been difficult to verify as registration at birth is not compulsory. Consequently, an accurate method of age determination is needed in competitive age-restricted sports.
Objective. To evaluate the age of Ghanaian soccer players who are aspiring to play for the national under-17 (U17) team, using the degree of fusion of the distal radius on magentic resonance imaging (MRI) and comparing it with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) MRI grading.
Methods. MRI scans of the left wrists of 86 players aspiring to play for the national U17 football team were recruited for the study during a 'justify your inclusion tournament' organised by the Ghana Football Association between June and August 2012. The study was conducted in a diagnostic centre in Accra using a 0.35T MRI scanner. The images were analysed using the previously published FIFA grading system.
Results. The mean chronological age of the players was 15.4 years (standard deviation ±0.7; range 12 - 17). The study showed that 43.0% of the MRI images were grade 6 (≥17 years) in relation to the degree of fusion of the distal radius, and 93.0% of the grade 6 players were aged 15 - 16 years chronologically. There was no significant correlation between the chronological age and the degree of fusion (r=0.075; p=0.493).
Conclusion. Ghanaian U17 soccer players seem to be more biologically mature than a normative population of the same age category. The lack of correlation between age category and degree of fusion supports the suspicion that most Ghanaian players may not know their true age.
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