The clinical assessment of groin pain in athletes is difficult, with the lack of specific clinical tests being in part responsible. Three pain provocation tests used in the diagnosis of chronic groin pain are described and their relationship to defined clinical and MRI criteria has been assessed.
Eighty-nine Australian Rules football players with and without groin symptoms underwent clinical examination followed by history. Three pain provocation tests were performed (named as the Single Adductor, Squeeze and Bilateral Adductor tests). All athletes subsequently underwent MRI of their groin region for the presence of significant pubic bone marrow oedema (BMO).
Of the 89, 47 were defined as having chronic groin pain, and 46 had significant BMO with 37 having both chronic groin pain and BMO. The three pain provocation tests demonstrated only moderate sensitivity (range 30–65%). Positive predictive values were moderate to high (67–93%) depending upon the individual test. The Bilateral Adductor test was the most sensitive test with the highest positive predictive values. The high specificity (88–93%) demonstrated should be treated with caution due to the study methodology.
Three pain provocation tests of potential value in assessing chronic groin pain in athletes are described. If positive, all three pain provocation tests demonstrated a high likelihood for the athlete having MR-detected parasymphyseal pubic BMO. Further research is required on assessing the clinical usefulness of these tests.