Groin injuries are common, comprising 2 to 5 percent of all sports injuries.1 Typical groin injuries can vary according to the athlete’s age, gender, and sport, with some injuries more commonly occurring in certain sports and/or in one gender or the other.
By far the most common type of groin injury is a pulled groin muscle, or groin strain. Symptoms of a groin strain are difficult to differentiate from other groin injury symptoms, such as fracture, so obtaining an accurate diagnosis from a doctor trained in sports medicine is recommended.
This article provides an in-depth review of groin pain signs, symptoms, causes, and treatment options.
Groin anatomy and injury
The groin area is made up of a complex and interconnected construction of bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other soft tissue located in the lower abdomen, upper thighs, and urogenital area. The groin’s complex anatomy presents multiple opportunities for athletic injury, which can range from stress fractures in bones to pulled muscles to problems with the digestive and reproductive organs.
Some types of groin injuries affect multiple types of tissue and/or organ systems simultaneously.
Common causes of groin injury
Groin injuries commonly occur in sports due to one or a combination of the following:
- Sudden stops and starts of the lower body, which are common in sports such as basketball, soccer and ice hockey
- Overuse due to repetitive stress, such as the impact of distance running and triathlon training
- Sudden trauma, such as getting tackled hard on a playing field in football or rugby
Groin pain most often results from some type of injury to the muscle, tendon, or ligament(s) in the groin, upper leg, or hip area. These injuries frequently occur in athletes who play high-impact sports such as hockey, track and field, soccer, and football.
Groin injuries can be difficult to diagnose because many types of injuries in the groin area have similar symptoms. Injuries in nearby parts of the body, such as the hips, pelvis, lower back, abdomen, and upper leg can also cause referred pain in the groin.2 It is therefore advisable for any athlete experiencing acute or chronic groin pain to seek medical attention for a diagnosis and treatment plan.