Fifty athletes with chronic undiagnosed groin pain underwent surgical exploration and inguinal hernia repair. Six months later, all athletes were sent questionnaires to assess their return to sport, level of pain (using analogue pain scores) and the overall result of their surgery. Operative findings revealed a significant bulge in the posterior inguinal wall in 40 athletes. Forty-four athletes (88%) replied to the questionnaire. Forty-one athletes (93% of respondents) had returned to normal activities. Pain scores indicated a marked improvement in their level of pain (P less than 0.001). Thirty-three athletes (75%) rated the result as good and 10 (23%) as improved. It is concluded that athletes with chronic groin pain who are unable to compete in active sport should be considered for routine inguinal hernia repair if no other pathology is evident after clinical examination and investigation.