Sports hernia or groin disruption injury? Chronic athletic groin pain: a retrospective study of 100 patients with long-term follow-up

Hernia. 2014;18(6):815-23. doi: 10.1007/s10029-013-1161-0. Epub 2013 Oct 12.


Introduction and objectives: Chronic groin pain (athletic pubalgia) is a common problem in sports such as football, hockey, cricket, baseball and athletics. Multiple co-existing pathologies are often present which commonly include posterior inguinal canal wall deficiency, conjoint tendinopathy, adductor tendinopathy, osteitis pubis and peripheral nerve entrapment. The mechanism of injury remains unclear but sports that involve either pivoting on a single leg (e.g. kicking) or a sudden change in direction at speed are most often associated with athletic pubalgia. These manoeuvres place large forces across the bony pelvis and its soft tissue supports, accounting for the usual clinical presentation of multiple symptomatic abnormalities forming one pattern of injury.

Results: The diagnoses encountered in this series of 100 patients included rectus abdominis muscle atrophy/asymmetry (22), conjoint tendinopathy (16), sports (occult, incipient) hernia (16), groin disruption injury (16), classical hernia (11) traumatic osteitis pubis (5), and avulsion fracture of the pubic bone (4). Surgical management was generally undertaken only after failed conservative therapy of 3-6 months, but some professionals who have physiotherapy during the football season went directly to surgery at the end of the football season. A variety of operations were performed including groin reconstruction (15), open hernia repair with or without mesh (11), sports hernia repair (Gilmore) (7) laparoscopic repair (3), conjoint tendon repair (3) and adductor tenotomy (3). Sixty-six patients were available for follow at an average of 13 years after initial consultation and the combined success rate for both conservative treatment and surgery was 94%.

Conclusion: The authors believe that athletic pubalgia or sports hernia should be considered as a 'groin disruption injury', the result of functional instability of the pelvis. The surgical approach is aimed at strengthening the anterior pelvic soft tissues that support and stabilise the symphysis pubis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Athletic Injuries* / complications
  • Athletic Injuries* / diagnosis
  • Athletic Injuries* / physiopathology
  • Chronic Pain
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Football / injuries*
  • Groin* / diagnostic imaging
  • Groin* / injuries
  • Groin* / physiopathology
  • Hernia / diagnosis
  • Hernia / etiology
  • Hernia / physiopathology
  • Herniorrhaphy / methods
  • Humans
  • Laparoscopy / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orthopedic Procedures / methods*
  • Osteitis / etiology
  • Osteitis / physiopathology
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Pubic Bone / diagnostic imaging
  • Pubic Bone / injuries
  • Pubic Symphysis / diagnostic imaging
  • Radiography
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tendinopathy / etiology
  • Tendinopathy / physiopathology
  • Ultrasonography


  • Analgesics