Athletic pubalgia and "sports hernia": optimal MR imaging technique and findings

Radiographics. 2008 Sep-Oct;28(5):1415-38. doi: 10.1148/rg.285075217.


Groin injuries are common in athletes who participate in sports that require twisting at the waist, sudden and sharp changes in direction, and side-to-side ambulation. Such injuries frequently lead to debilitating pain and lost playing time, and they may be difficult to diagnose. Diagnostic confusion often arises from the complex anatomy and biomechanics of the pubic symphysis region, the large number of potential sources of groin pain, and the similarity of symptoms in athletes with different types or sites of injury. Many athletes with a diagnosis of "sports hernia" or "athletic pubalgia" have a spectrum of related pathologic conditions resulting from musculotendinous injuries and subsequent instability of the pubic symphysis without any finding of inguinal hernia at physical examination. The actual causal mechanisms of athletic pubalgia are poorly understood, and imaging studies have been deemed inadequate or unhelpful for clarification. However, a large-field-of-view magnetic resonance (MR) imaging survey of the pelvis, combined with high-resolution MR imaging of the pubic symphysis, is an excellent means of assessing various causes of athletic pubalgia, providing information about the location of injury, and delineating the severity of disease. Familiarity with the pubic anatomy and with MR imaging findings in athletic pubalgia and in other confounding causes of groin pain allows accurate imaging-based diagnoses and helps in planning treatment that targets specific pathologic conditions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Groin / injuries*
  • Groin / pathology*
  • Hernia, Inguinal / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Pubic Symphysis / injuries*
  • Pubic Symphysis / pathology*
  • Young Adult