Hip Joint Pathology as a Leading Cause of Groin Pain in the Sporting Population: A 6-Year Review of 894 Cases

Am J Sports Med. 2015 Jul;43(7):1698-703. doi: 10.1177/0363546515582031. Epub 2015 May 11.


Background: Chronic hip and groin pain offers a diagnostic challenge for the sports medicine practitioner. Recent consensus suggests diagnostic categorization based on 5 clinical entities: hip joint-, adductor-, pubic bone stress injury-, iliopsoas-, or abdominal wall-related pathology. However, their prevalence patterns and coexistence in an active population are unclear.

Purpose: This study presents a descriptive epidemiology based on a large sample of active individuals with long-standing pain in the hip and groin region. The objectives were to examine the prevalence of key clinical entities, document coexisting pathologies, and present prevalence patterns based on key demographics.

Study design: Cross-sectional study; Level of evidence, 3.

Methods: A retrospective review was conducted of clinical records of all hip and groin injuries seen between January 2006 and December 2011 under the care of a single experienced sports medicine consultant. In all cases, imaging was undertaken by a team of specialist musculoskeletal radiologists. Diagnoses were categorized according to 5 clinical entities using contemporary diagnostic nomenclature. The chi-square test was used to compare observed and expected frequencies across each subgroup's prevalence figures based on sex, age, and sports participation.

Results: Full medical records were retrieved from 894 patients with chronic hip and groin pain. The majority of patients were male (73%), aged between 26 and 30 years, and participating in footballing codes (soccer, rugby, and Gaelic sports) or running. A total of 24 combinations of clinical entities were found. There were significant differences (P < .001) in prevalence patterns based on age, sex, and sports activity. Adductor-related pain or pubic bone stress injury rarely presented in isolation. Hip joint pathology was the most common clinical entity (55.98%) and was significantly more likely to present in isolation. The majority of hip joint pathologies related to femoroacetabular impingement (40%), labral tears (33%), and osteoarthritis (24%). These figures were significantly different across male and female patients (P < .001), with a higher percentage of cases of femoroacetabular impingement and labral tears in male and female patients, respectively.

Conclusion: Chronic hip and groin pain is often associated with multiple clinical entities. Hip joint pathology is the most common clinical entity and is most likely to relate to femoroacetabular impingement, labral tears, and osteoarthritis. These pathologies seem to be associated with secondary breakdown of surrounding structures; however, underpinning mechanisms are unclear.

Keywords: athlete; entity; groin; hip; pain; sport.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Female
  • Femoracetabular Impingement / diagnosis*
  • Femoracetabular Impingement / epidemiology
  • Football / injuries
  • Groin / injuries
  • Hip Joint / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Running / injuries
  • Soccer / injuries
  • Sports Medicine
  • Young Adult