Background: Chronic groin pain in athletes presents often a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge. Sportsman's hernia (also called "athletic pubalgia") is a deficiency of the posterior wall of the inguinal canal, which is often repaired by laparoscopic mesh placement. Endoscopic mesh repair may offer a faster recovery for athletes with sportsman's hernia than nonoperative therapy.
Methods: A randomized, prospective study was conducted on 60 patients with a diagnosis of chronic groin pain and suspected sportsman's hernia. Clinical data and MRI were collected on all patients. After 3 to 6 months of groin symptoms, the patients were randomized into an operative or a physiotherapy group (n = 30 patients in each group). Operation was performed using a totally extraperitoneal repair in which mesh was placed behind the symphysis and painful groin area. Conservative treatment included at least 2 months of active physiotherapy, including corticosteroid injections and oral anti-inflammatory analgesics. The outcome measures were pre- and postoperative pain using a visual analogue scale and partial or full recovery to sports activity at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months after randomization.
Results: The athletes in both treatment groups had similar characteristics and pain scores. Operative repair was more effective than nonoperative treatment to decrease chronic groin pain after 1 month and up to 12 months of follow-up (P < .001). Of the 30 athletes who underwent operation, 27 (90%) returned to sports activities after 3 months of convalescence compared to 8 (27%) of the 30 athletes in the nonoperative group (P < .0001). Of the 30 athletes in the conservatively treated group, 7 (23 %) underwent operation later because of persistent groin pain.
Conclusion: This randomized controlled study indicated that the endoscopic placement of retropubic mesh was more efficient than conservative therapy for the treatment of sportsman's hernia (athletic pubalgia).
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