Objectives: To assess bone marrow edema at the pubic symphysis with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and its relation to training and osteitis pubis in an elite group of junior soccer players.
Setting: Soccer players on scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS).
Patients: Nineteen players from an elite junior men's soccer squad. INTERVENTION/ASSESSMENT: Serial MRI examinations of the pubic symphysis over a 4-month training and playing period, training session questionnaire, and review of clinical diagnosis, investigations, and records on presentation of athletes with groin pain at the Department of Sports Medicine.
Main outcome measures: Assessment of bone marrow edema (4-point scale) on MRI scans, review of athlete questionnaires, and review of clinical records.
Results: Initial MRI scans showed moderate to severe bone marrow edema at the pubic symphysis in 11 of the 18 asymptomatic players. There was a greatly decreased risk of developing groin pain (osteitis pubis) with more training prior to entry of the AIS soccer program (odds ratio per 4 sessions of training, 0.003). The correlation between initial bone marrow edema grading and pre-AIS training was small. The increase in bone marrow edema grading from baseline over the scans was 0.5 (90% CL, 0.4).
Conclusions: Substantial amounts of bone marrow edema at the pubic symphysis can occur in asymptomatic elite junior soccer players, but it is only weakly related to the development of osteitis pubis. Progressing training loads more slowly in athletes presenting with low current training loads may be a useful strategy for the prevention of osteitis pubis in junior soccer players.