The complexity of groin anatomy and groin injuries in general can make them a challenge to diagnose. Athletes consulting their doctors about their groin pain are advised to plan for a comprehensive examination process that may require more than one visit. 1 McKee, J. What’s causing a patient’s groin pain? Hip disorders and other coexisting, nonorthopaedic conditions may be at play. AAOS Now, October 2013. . Accessed December 15, 2014.

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As a general rule, it is advisable to consult a doctor with a specialization in sports medicine for diagnosing groin pain. Doctors typically use a multi-tiered approach to diagnosing the root cause(s) of groin pain, as follows:

  1. Detailed patient history
    The first and most important part of the diagnostic process is a complete patient history so a treatment plan can be customized to meet the unique needs of the patient. This usually consists of a thorough patient interview to determine exactly how, when, and where the symptoms began. For example, who is the patient and what are his or her athletic demands? When and where did the injury occur? How did the injury happen? What is the character of the pain and what makes the pain better or worse?
  1. Physical examination
    The doctor will likely tailor the physical exam around the findings from the patient history. Patients may be asked to sit, stand, lie prone, and walk during the exam, so the doctor can evaluate their gait, balance, hip flexion and range of motion, strength, and other factors such as pelvic alignment. Doctors may palpate (touch) the injury site to determine which tissue(s) is affected or place the joint in specific positions to attempt to reproduce the pain.
  2. Diagnostic imaging
    X-ray or ultrasound are typically used initially, based on the doctor’s probable suspected diagnosis. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is frequently necessary to diagnose soft tissue groin injuries and some stress fractures.
  1. Blood tests
    Because some types of groin injury involve secondary infections and/or other systemic symptoms, doctors may elect to do complete blood counts and other common types of blood tests when diagnosing groin injuries.

Once the cause of the groin injury is determined, the correct treatment protocol can be applied.

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Dr. Shane Nho is an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine physician specializing in arthroscopic treatment of the hip, shoulder, and knee. He serves as the Director of the Hip Preservation Center at Rush University Medical Center. Dr. Nho has been published in peer-reviewed journals.