Sports-related groin pain is a common condition in athletes.
It results from chronic, repetitive trauma or stress to the muscle and tendon
portions of the groin or from overuse of the lower abdominal musculature and
muscles of the upper thigh. The groin pain usually develops gradually. It can
be associated with virtually any sport but most often is encountered in hockey,
soccer, rugby and football – sports that require frequent bending or leaning
The most common culprit of sports-related groin pain is the
tearing of the external oblique muscle, with injury to the ilioinguinal nerve
that courses through that area. Other causes include inflammation of the pubic
tubercle and strain to the adductor muscles.
The physician would examine the groin to make sure there is
no inguinal hernia present. The pain from groin strain can usually be
reproduced by performing simple maneuvers, such as sit-ups or crunches. Ultrasound
is often used to evaluate the groin area for any tendon abnormalities.
Sometimes, if the inflammation of the pubic tubercle is suspected, an imaging
test called a bone scan is ordered to determine if there is inflammation
present in that part of the body. X-rays are usually not very helpful in
The most important part of the initial treatment is rest and abstinence from the physical activities that caused the
groin strain. Patients who insist on continuing to play the sport despite groin
pain will take considerably longer to heal. It is also beneficial to apply ice
packs to the sore area three to four times per day for approximately ten
minutes. Over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen, are useful for
pain relief. Gentle physical therapy exercises may be helpful in some cases.
Unfortunately, the groin pain often tends to return once the sport activity is
Surgical exploration may also be used in cases of severe and
persistent groin pain or when a prompt return to the sport activity is
required. This is often performed laparoscopically using a camera inserted
through a small groin incision, but sometimes open surgery is required to
correct the abnormality. Surgery is not recommended in the cases of adductor muscle
strain, which is best treated with physical therapy.
According to studies, long-term improvement is usually seen
in 90 percent of surgically treated patients.