Clinical sports anatomy sample chapter

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Understanding the anatomy of a sports injury is the key to unlocking the diagnosis for most clinicians. Unfortunately, anatomy is often poorly taught, is not clinically focused and many anatomy textbooks are so complicated that searching for clinically useful information is difficult. In addition, multiple pathologies can present in an overlapping fashion, making the differentiation of the various possible causes of injury problematic.


Clinical Sports Anatomy classifies structures according to their anatomical reference points to form a diagnostic triangle. Discriminant questions are coupled with the more useful clinical tests and diagnostic manoeuvres to direct the reader toward a definitive clinical diagnosis. This approach is firmly rooted in evidence-based medicine and includes a list of the most appropriate investigations required to confirm diagnosis.

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Clinical sports anatomy sample chapter

  1. 1. Chapter 5 THE GROIN TRIANGLE 1 Chronic groin pain is a common presentation in sports medicine practice. Studies in professional sports have found groin injury the fourth most common injury affecting soccer players,[1] the third most common injury in Australian rules football,[2] and also has a high prevalence in ice hockey[3] and rugby.[4, 5] This gives an incomplete portrayal however, as the morbidity attached to chronic groin pain means it is behind only fracture and joint reconstruction in terms of lost time from injury.[4, 5] All these sports involve kicking and twisting movements whilst running. These actions place strain on fascial and musculoskeletal structures that are fixed to a number of bony anatomical points in close proximity. The resultant tissue damage and/or entrapment of anatomical structures may cause pain. This paper sets out a method based on patho-anatomic principles for a systematic examination of the chronically painful groin, which enables the clinician to discriminate more easily between pathological conditions and target their investigation and subsequent management to specific diagnoses. The specific anatomical landmarks and borders of the groin triangle are set out in Figure 1. Apex points of the groin triangle The anatomical apex points of the triangle are as follows; Anterior Superior Iliac Spine (ASIS) Pubic Tubercle 3G point From anthropometric measurements, the authors defined a new reference point at the apex of the triangle. This point was termed the ‘3G point’ in reference to the three-dimensional pathology and the groin, gluteal and greater trochanteric regions. The relationship of this point in the anterior coronal plane was the mid distance point between ASIS and the ssuperior pole of the patella, and in the posterior coronal plane, double the distance from the spinous process of L5 lumbar vertebrae to the ischial tuberosity in the line of the femur. Figure 1 The Groin triangle TFL= tensor fasciae latae, IlioPS= iliopsoas, Pec= pectinius, AL= adductor longus, Sar.= sartorius, Gr= gracilis, RF= rectus femoris, VL= vastus lateralis, VM= vastus medialis, ASIS= anterior superior liac spine, 3G= the 3 G point.
  2. 2. Chapter 5 THE GROIN TRIANGLE 2 Muscle Origin Insertion Nerve Root Iliacus Inner surface of the iliac fossa Lesser trochanter of femur Femoral nerve L2, L3 Psoas Major and Minor Transverse processes L1-L5, vertebral bodies of T12-L5 and intervertebral discs Lesser trochanter of femur Lumbar plexus L1.L2,L3 Tensae fascia latae Anterior superior iliac crest Iliotibial band Superior gluteal nerve L4,L5,S1 Sartorius Anterior superior iliac spine Proximal antero- medial tibia ( pes anserine) Femoral nerve L2,L3 Rectus femoris Anterior head – anterior inferior iliac spine Posterior head – supra acetabular groove Tibial tuberosity Femoral nerve L2,L3,L4 Vastus lateralis Lateral lip of linea aspera Tibial tuberosity Femoral nerve L2,L3,L4 Vastus intermedius Antero lateral surface of femur Tibial tuberosity Femoral nerve L2.L3.L4 Vastus medialis Inter trochanteric line Tibial tuberosity Femoral nerve L2,L3.L4 Pectineus Pectineal line of superior pubic ramus Pectineal line of femur Femoral nerve and/or obturator nerve L2,L3 and/or L2,3,4 Adductor longus Anterior surface of pubis inferior to pubic tubercle Middle third of linea aspera Obturator nerve L2,L3,L4 Adductor brevis Body and inferior pubic ramus Proximal third of linea aspera Obturator nerve L2,L3,L4 Gracilis Body and inferior pubic ramus Proximal antero- medial tibia ( pes anserinus) Obturator nerve L2,L3,L4 Adductor Magnus Anterior head- inferior pubic ramus and ischial ramus Posterior head – ischial tuberosity Anterior head – linea aspera Posterior head – adductor tubercle of femur Anterior - Obturator nerve Posterior - Sciatic nerve L2,L3,L4 and L4,L5
  3. 3. Chapter 5 THE GROIN TRIANGLE 3 Movement Hip Flexion Hip Lateral rotation Hip Medial rotation Hip Adduction Hip Abduction Knee Extension Psoas Major Psoas Major Tensor fascia latae Adductor Magnus Adductor longus Adductor brevis Sartorius Gracilis Tensor fascia latae Rectus femoris Psoas Minor Psoas Minor Vastus lateralis Iliacus Iliacus Vastus intermedius Tensor fascia latae Vastus medialis Gracilis Superior border of the groin triangle The line between the pubic tubercle and the ASIS forms the superior border of the triangle. This corresponds to the anatomical position of the inguinal ligament, a thickening of the aponeurosis of the external oblique muscle. Superior to the this line, working from the pubic tubercle medially to the ASIS laterally the following structures will be encountered; Rectus abdominis and rectus abdominis sheath insertions Internal oblique, external oblique, and transversus abdominis insertions and aponeuroses. Inguinal canal, medially the superficial inguinal ring and conjoint tendon, more laterally the canal and further laterally the deep inguinal ring. Ilioinguinal, iliohypogastric and genital branch of the genitofemoral nerve. Conjoint tendon of Ilio-psoas as it passes under the lateral third of the inguinal ligament The visceral contents of the abdomen and pelvis The insertion of rectus abdominis and its sheath are intimately related to the aponeuroses of the obliques and transversus abdominis. The junction of where these structures converge at the pubic bone revolves around the inguinal canal. The internal inguinal ring is located at a point between the mid-inguinal point (situated midway between the anterior superior iliac spine and the pubic symphysis) and the midpoint of the inguinal ligament.[6]. The transversalis fascia, and the conjoint tendon, a confluence of internal oblique and transversalis fasciae form the posterior wall of the canal. The superficial inguinal ring, the opening in the external oblique aponeurosis is situated a centimetre above and lateral to the pubic tubercle. The anatomy of the ilioinguinal and iliohypogastric and genital branch of the genitofemoral nerves is extremely variable, between them they supply the skin of the lower abdomen, medial thigh and scrotum.[7] Medial Border of the groin triangle The line from the pubic tubercle to the 3G point inferiorly, forms the medial border of the triangle. Though neither the medial or lateral borders of the triangle comprise of a muscular line, in both instances they work to separate the clinically important ‘groups’ of structures that lie on either side of them. Medial to the border lie the adductor muscles, from superficial to deep Adductor longus Gracilis Adductor brevis Adductor magnus The adductor longus and gracilis tendons are the most commonly affected and lie in an almost continuous site of origin along the body of the pubis. The other adductor muscles (brevis and magnus) arise more posterolaterally along the inferior pubic ramus. The ramus forms a direct continuum between the pubic body and the ischial tuberosity. The obturator nerve divides in the obturator canal (2-3 cm long canal situated in the anterosuperior aspect of the obturator foramen containing the obturator nerve, artery, and vein) to anterior and posterior divisions. The anterior branch innervates adductor longus, brevis, gracilis, and, occasionally pectineus, it supplies sensory innervation to the skin and fascia of the inner distal thirds of the medial thigh.[8] Lateral Border of Triangle The line from the ASIS superiorly to the 3G point forms the lateral border of the triangle. Femoro-acetabular joint Trochanteric bursa Tensor fasciae latae & Iliotibial band
  4. 4. Chapter 5 THE GROIN TRIANGLE 4 Though the surface marking of the femora-acetabular joint lies within the triangle, pathology of the joint is usually referred to the greater trochanter, as such it is considered in this section. Gluteal bursae underlie gluteus maximus and gluteus medius tendons proximal to their insertions. The iliotibial band (ITB) or tract is a lateral thickening of the fasciae latae in the thigh. Proximally it splits into superficial and deep layers, enclosing tensor fasciae latae and anchoring this muscle to the iliac crest. Within the Triangle Within the triangle the following structures are encountered; Conjoint tendon of Iliopsoas muscle Rectus femoris muscle Femoral canal Psoas arises as a series of slips each of which arise from the adjacent margins of the vertebral bodies and the intervening discs from the lower border of T12 to the upper border of L5. Iliacus arises from the upper two-thirds of the concavity of the iliac fossa and the inner lip of the iliac crest, as well as the ventral sacro-iliac and iliolumbar ligaments and the upper surface of the lateral part of the sacrum. The two muscles converge and pass downwards and medially beneath the inguinal ligament over the hip joint and into the lesser trochanter of the femur. The passage of this conjoined tendon over the hip joint is facilitated by the iliopsoas bursa, which is in some cases in direct communication with the hip joint. Rectus femoris arises via a direct head from the anterior inferior iliac spine and a reflected head arising from the superior acetabular rim and joint capsule. The femoral ring is the base of the femoral canal. Its surface marking is medial to the femoral artery, palpable at the mid-inguinal point. The femoral ring is bounded in front by the inguinal ligament, behind by the pectineus, medially by the crescentic base of the lacunar ligament, and laterally by the fibrous septum on the medial side of the femoral vein. Nerve entrapment, The classic distribution of the cutaneous innervation of the area incorporated in the triangle and their potential neuropathies is shown in figure 2; these however, must serve as a guide only, as in vivo considerable variation occurs.[7, 9-12] The clinician will appreciate that in addition to paraesthesias, a compressed nerve can give rise to pain. The additional possibility of referred or radicular pain from T12, L1, L2, and L3 must also be considered. Figure 2 Nerve entrapment of the proximal lower limb Gr= gracilis, VL= vastus lateralis, VM= vastus medialis, RF= rectus femoris, ASIS= anterior superior liac spine, 3G= the 3 G point. A patho-anatomic approach The diagnostic process of history and examination is often abbreviated. There is a growing tendency to rely on investigational studies as the initial diagnostic step (e.g. proceeding to magnetic resonance imaging of a painful groin in the absence of a clear differential diagnosis). The authors propose a four-step approach to the diagnostic process emphasising history and examination and limiting investigation to the final step as follows: Step 1; Define & Align Define the anatomical points and borders of the triangle on the patient (ASIS, pubic tubercle, and 3G point).
  5. 5. Chapter 5 THE GROIN TRIANGLE 5 Step 2; Listen & Localise Listen to the patient’s history and obtain as many localising factors as possible then pinpoint the pain in relation to the groin triangle. Step 3; Palpate & Re-create Carefully palpate the identified area and determine which anatomical structures are painful. The use of provocative manoeuvres/examinations (e.g. exercise) to re- create the patient’s pain can be a critical diagnostic step. To describe all of the manoeuvres in detail is beyond the scope of this text, readers are referred to reviews on this topic. [13, 14] Step 4; Alleviate & Investigate Where a number of anatomical structures are in close proximity, clinical presentations can be very similar. The manner in which pain can be removed may be very helpful. A decrease in pain following abstinence from aggravating activity is revealing. If a distinct structure can be identified, the elimination of symptoms following guided injection of local anaesthetic into the structure is invaluable. The authors recognise that a number of conditions discussed in this text may only be diagnosed definitively following radiological investigation, in these instance the most discriminative, evidence based investigation is recommended. Specific scenarios using a problem oriented approach The diagnostic stepwise approach using the groin triangle is summarized in tables 1-5. The triangle is used to localise the pathology to a particular area. We refer the reader to the specific table relating to that border of the triangle. This provides a differential diagnosis, and clarifies the most discriminative evidence based tests. Pubic tubercle Because many potentially anatomical structures converge at this point, we propose a marking of the structure in similar fashion to a clock face (Fig. 3). This schematic representation of the anatomy of the area serves as a guide to what may be palpable following invagination of the scrotum. The examining clinician can therefore ‘walk their finger’ around the tubercle assigning each part of the clock face to relevant attachment as highlighted in Fig. 3. The authors recognise the variability of structures in this area, having based diagrams on cadaveric studies performed prior to this paper.[15] We have employed the term pubic bone stress injury for what is often in the literature called ‘Osteitis Pubis’. We feel this is a better reflection of the clinical picture in the absence of any evidence of an inflammatory process. The topic of incipient hernia is included as disorders of the posterior and anterior inguinal walls. These are diagnoses of exclusion and, outside of the most experienced hands, probably inseparable. These may represent different ends of a spectrum of pathology in the area owing to differing sporting activity.[3, 16-19] Figure 3 The Pubic tubercle schematic
  6. 6. Chapter 5 THE GROIN TRIANGLE 6 Define & Align Pathology Listen & Localise Palpate & Recreate Alleviate & Investigate Pubic Tubercle Adductor tendon enthesopathy Insidious onset, warms up with exercise Guarding on passive abduction,[20] weakness.[21] Pubic ‘Clock’; 6-8 Magnetic resonance imaging ± Gadolinium[22] Rectus abdominis enthesopathy Well localised to insertion, acute or insidious onset Pain from resisted sit- up.[21] Pubic ‘Clock’; 12 Magnetic resonance imaging ± Gadolinium [22] Pubic bone stress injury Non-specific diminished athletic performance, loss of propulsive power Bone tenderness predominates[23, 24] Diagnosis of exclusion Plain film[24]Magnetic resonance imaging[25] Degenerative pubic symphysis Central pain, associated with stress through symphysis- stair climbing Tender over symphysis. Pubic ‘Clock’; 3 Plain film, stress view,[26] Magnetic resonance imaging[25] Incipient hernia; conjoint tendon tear Insidious onset, diminished performance, warms up. Pain on resisted ‘torsion’ of trunk ‘ipsilateral direction’. [27] Pubic ‘Clock’; 11 Ultrasound[28] Magnetic resosnance imaging[29] Confirmation by direct vision at arthroscopy,[18, 30, 31] Incipient hernia; external oblique aponeurosis tear Acute onset, related to sport specific movement eg ‘slap shot’.[17] . Pain on resisted ‘torsion’ of trunk ‘contralateral direction’. [27] Tenderness & dilation of superficial inguinal ring on invagination of scrotum.[16] Pubic ‘Clock’; 12-1 Nerve entrapment; Ilioinguinal nerve Genitofemoral nerve (genital branch) Altered skin sensation Post inguinal surgery?[32] Superficial pain hyper/dysaesthesia to skin over pubis.[33] Absence of muscular component[10] Relief of pain by ultrasound-guided local anaesthetic infiltration[34]Nerve conduction studies[7]
  7. 7. Chapter 5 THE GROIN TRIANGLE 7 Medial Adductor longus pathology is the most common cause for pain in this area, differentiation of enthesis-related problems from those at the musculi- tendinous junction is important. The abnormal mechanics that arise due to adductor dysfunction play a critical role in the generation of a chronic pain/dysfunction cycle in the area. Figure 4 Medial to the triangle AL= adductor longus, AB= adductor brevis, AM= adductor magnus, S= sartorius, Gr= gracilis
  8. 8. Chapter 5 THE GROIN TRIANGLE 8 Table 2: Patho-anatomic approach; Medial to the groin triangle Define & Align Pathology Listen & Localise Palpate & Recreate Alleviate & Investigate Medial to Triangle Adductor/gracilis enthesopathy Insidious onset, diminished performance, warms up Proximal adductor pain, at enthesis. Guarding, weakness[20, 21] Magnetic resonance imaging ± Gadolinium [22] Adductor longus pathology at Musculotendinous junction Acute onset, worse during exercise. Pain in proximal adductor.[21] (2-4cm distal to enthesis), guarding, weakness.[20, 21] Magnetic resonance imaging ± Gadolinium [22] Pubic bone stress injury Pain primarily at pubis radiating to proximal thigh Bone tenderness, lack of point muscular tenderness Magnetic resonance imaging ± Gadolinium [22, 35] Stress fracture inferior pubic ramus Insidious onset, heavy training load Hop test,[14] associated deep buttock pain Plain x-ray, Magnetic resonance imaging[36] Nerve Entrapment; I. Obturator nerve II. Ilioinguinal nerve III. Genitofemoral nerve (Genital branch) Claudicant-type pain of medial thigh which settles on resting[37] Exercise-related adductor weakness, superficial dysesthesia of mid-medial thigh[38] Electromyography of adductor longus[39] Guided local anaesthetic injection to obturator foramen[40] Altered skin sensation Post inguinal surgery? Dysaesthesia/ hyperaesthesia over area of skin supplied by nerve in question[32, 33] Relief of pain by ultrasound-guided local anaesthetic infiltration[34] Nerve conduction studies[7] External Iliac Artery Endofibrosis Thigh discomfort post high-intensity exercise mainly in cyclists Exercise related lower limb weakness, Exercise-altered bruit & Ankle/Brachial Index[41] Doppler ultrasound[42] Angiography[43]
  9. 9. Chapter 5 THE GROIN TRIANGLE 9 Superior Rectus abdominis pathology tends to be well localised to its insertion at the pubic tubercle, often making it the most clear-cut diagnosis in this area. This may arise as a primary diagnosis, or develop secondary to pubic overload originating from adductor or iliopsoas pathology. Figure 5 Superior to the groin triangle
  10. 10. Chapter 5 THE GROIN TRIANGLE 10 Table 3: Patho-anatomic approach; Superior to the groin triangle Define & Align Pathology Listen & Localise Palpate & Recreate Alleviate & Investigate Superior To Base Rectus abdominis Tendinopathy Well localised to insertion, acute or insidious onset Pain from resisted sit-up.[21, 44] Pubic ‘Clock’; 12 Magnetic resonance imaging ± Gadolinium [22] Incipient hernia; conjoint tendon tear Insidious onset, diminished performance, warms up. Pain on resisted ‘torsion’ of trunk ‘ipsilateral direction’. [27] Pubic ‘Clock’; 11 Ultrasound[28] Magnetic resosnance imaging[29] Confirmation by direct vision at arthroscopy,[18, 30, 31] Incipient hernia; external oblique aponeurosis tear Acute onset, related to sport specific movement eg ‘slap shot’.[17] . Pain on resisted ‘torsion’ of trunk ‘contralateral direction’. [27] Tenderness & dilation of superficial inguinal ring on invagination of scrotum.[16] Pubic ‘Clock’; 12-1 Inguinal hernia Pain on Valsalva manoeuvre Cough impulse, palpable mass at deep inguinal ring (direct), in inguinal canal/scrotum (indirect) Ultrasound[28] Herniography,[45] laparoscopy. Nerve Entrapment; Ilioinguinal nerve Iliohypogastric nerve Genitofemoral nerve (genital branch) Lateral femoral cutaneous nerve Altered skin sensation Dysaesthesia/ hyperaesthesia over area of skin supplied by nerve in question.[7, 10] Relief of pain by ultrasound-guided local anaesthetic infiltration.[34] Nerve conduction studies[7]
  11. 11. Chapter 5 THE GROIN TRIANGLE 11 Lateral As a cause of recalcitrant groin pain, pathology of the femoro-acetabular joint should not be underestimated. The joint is prone to degenerative, inflammatory and infective processes. The long-term contribution of acute or repetitive trauma to the development of degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis is of particular concern in the sports setting. Figure 6 Lateral to the groin triangle TFL= tensor fasciae latae, VL= vastus lateralis, RF= rectus femoris
  12. 12. Chapter 5 THE GROIN TRIANGLE 12 Table 4: Patho-anatomic approach; Lateral to the groin triangle Define & Align Pathology Listen & Localise Palpate & Recreate Alleviate & Investigate Lateral to Triangle Impingement/Labral pathology, Femoro-acetabular joint. Mechanical signs, clicking in joint and/or catching Impingement test[46] Magnetic resonance imaging, Arthrogram[47] Osteoarthritis/Chondral damage, Femoro-acetabular joint; History of traumatic/ congenital insult. Older age group Limited range of movement,[48] pain on weight bearing. Plain film x-ray, Magnetic resonance imaging[36] Stress fracture Neck of Femur Heavy training load, biomechanical/gait abnormality Hop test,[49] fulcrum test[50] Plain film x-ray, Magnetic resonance imaging[36] Trochanteric bursitis Persistant lateral hip pain worse on lying on affected side Pain on transition between lying/standing[51] Ultrasound,[52] Relief of pain by ultrasound-guided local anaesthetic injection Iliotibial band friction syndrome External ‘Snapping’ and/or lateral knee pain Recreate snapping,[53] Ober’s test[14] Ultrasound[52] Nerve Entrapment; Lateral Cutaneous Femoral nerve/ Meralgia paraesthetica Exercise induced, obesity[54] Reproduction of symptoms on pressure inferior to anterior superior iliac spine[54] Nerve conduction studies[7]
  13. 13. Chapter 5 THE GROIN TRIANGLE 13 Within the triangle Pathology of the iliopsoas muscle may cause pain that is referred in the area superior to the triangle but the conjoint tendon is the most palpable structure within the triangle when the hip is flexed. This is a common, though under-diagnosed, cause of groin pain.[55] It is particularly prone to irritation when overloaded secondary to dysfunction of other muscular structures around the groin, such as the adductors. Figure 7 Within the triangle
  14. 14. Chapter 5 THE GROIN TRIANGLE 14 Table 5: Patho-anatomic approach; Within the groin triangle Define & Align Pathology Listen & Localise Palpate & Recreate Alleviate & Investigate Within the triangle Iliopsoas syndrome Pain above & below inguinal ligament Associated snapping at hip joint. Thomas test, modified[14] Ultrasound scan dynamic view of snapping[52] ± injection[56] Magnetic resonance imaging. Rectus femoris tendinopathy/apophysitis Does knee movement affect pain? Rectus Femoris contracture test[57] Plain x-ray, Ultrasound scan,[52] Magnetic resonance imaging. Femoral hernia Painful lump infero- medial to pubic tubercle Minimal relationship to exercise Ultrasound scan,[28] Herniography.[45] Nerve entrapment; Genitofemoral nerve (femoral branch) Medial femoral cutaneous nerve Altered skin sensation Dysaesthesia/ hyperaesthesia over area of skin supplied by nerve in question.[8] Relief of pain by local anaesthetic infiltration[34] Nerve conduction studies[7]
  15. 15. Chapter 5 THE GROIN TRIANGLE 15 Intra-abdominal pathology Discussion of this topic is beyond the scope of this paper, gastrointestinal and genitourinary pathology may mask as groin discomfort or pain. Key discriminating symptoms may be signs of systemic illness, systemic inflammatory response and no correlation between exercise and symptoms or signs. Any or all of the above in conjunction with a negative musculoskeletal examination serve to alert the examining physician to focus their examinations beyond the musculoskeletal system. Case Histories A 35-year-old woman presents with a 3-month history of groin pain. She is nt usually active but had joined a ‘boot camp’ to lose some weight prior to her symptom onset. She first noticed the pain after a particularly heavy session which involved performing weighted sit-ups. She developed a sharp pain in her groin. This was extremely sore but settled somewhat so she was able to resume some training after a number of days. At this point her symptoms gradually worsened and now she is unable to do any abdominal work and even running hurts. This is a presentation of groin pain, as such proceed to step 1, define and align the groin triangle. Define and align; Expose the patient properly, a pair of sports shorts will allow physical access and aid visibility. Define the triangle: Locate the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS), locate the pubic symphysis, mark the mid-point of the line between the ASIS and superior pole of the patella (3G point). Align the patient’s pain on the triangle. Here the pain is quite specific the patient points to the area just above her pubic bone. The patient has localised the pain to the area ‘superior to the triangle’. From this point we recommend the reader attempt to exclude the potential pathologies. From our table ‘superior to the triangle’ the potential causal structures are:
  16. 16. Chapter 5 THE GROIN TRIANGLE 16 We proceed to differentiate between these structures, step 2. Listen and localise: Addressing the rectus abdominis muscle we ask: o Is the pain well localised to above the pubic bone (demonstrate where you mean)? Yes Addressing an excipient hernia we ask: o Does the pain have an insidious onset, does it occur during and post exercise? No it began severely but it does occur during exercise and stops a while after. Addressing an inguinal hernia we ask: o Do you experience pain when you ‘bear down’, for example straining at stool, or lifting a heavy object? Not initially but I have noticed that I do have pain when I lift heavy things now. Addressing neuropathy we ask: o Have you noticed any abnormal sensation of the skin in the area? No This will narrow our differential diagnosis somewhat, and we proceed to examination to narrow it further. By palpating painful structures, and recreating the pain through diagnostic manoeuvres we move toward a diagnosis, step 3. Palpate & recreate: From the pubic clock, pain at and around the 12pm position on the ‘pubic clock’ indicates pathology of the rectus abdominis muscle. Incipient hernia is extremely uncommon in women, but the external inguinal ring may be palpated superolateral to the pubic tubercle at the 11 pm position. A palpable mass in this area indicates a true inguinal hernia; here, a cough impulse is helpful. Normal superficial sensation in the area makes neuropathy unlikely, but if you are unsure have the patient perform the aggravating activity and re-examine post. Given step 2 and the results of our palpation it is likely that this is a rectus abdominus enthesopathy/insertion tear. A test to recreate the pain is to have the patient ‘situp’ against resistance. Recreation of pain is a positive test. We may now proceed, if necessary, to confirm our clinical suspicion, step 4. Alleviate & investigate We may confirm our clinical suspicion via imaging. Ultrasonography is effective but the most evidence-based test is MRI with or without the use of gadolinium contrast.
  17. 17. Chapter 5 THE GROIN TRIANGLE 17 A 26 year-old soccer player presents with worsening ‘groin pain’ over the previous 2 years. Interventions had included non-steroidal anti- inflammatory drugs and simple analgesia. Pain developed after 20-30 minutes of activity and when sever would last until the next day. Heavy training and running particularly game time aggravated the pain. The player volunteered that rest was the only true relieving factor. The pain was a non-specific ache but progressed to a sharp pinch when severe. This is a presentation of groin pain, as such proceed to step 1, define and align the groin triangle. Define and align; As in case 1 expose the patient appropriately and define the groin triangle according to it’s bony landmarks. Align the patient’s pain on the triangle: The patient localises the pain to the area on the medial side of his leg, sometimes radiating towards the knee. This places the pain in the area medial to the triangle. From this point we recommend the reader attempt to exclude the potential pathologies that might be encountered in this region. From our table ‘medial to the triangle’ the potential causal structures are: We proceed to differentiate between these structures, step 2. Listen and localise: Addressing the adductor/Gracilis muscle we ask; o Did the pain come on gradually, and does it ease with warming up? The answer is no
  18. 18. Chapter 5 THE GROIN TRIANGLE 18 o Did the pain come on suddenly and is it worse on exercise? Yes that sounds right. Addressing the pubic bone we ask: o Has your training load increased over the last few months, have you been doing more kicking than normal? No, I have been at a two-week training camp but that was no more intensive than my normal weekly training load. o Is the pain at the pubic bone itself? No, the patient pointed to the lateral border of the pubis, radiating down the inside of the leg Addressing neuropathy we ask: o Have you noticed any abnormal sensation of the skin in the area? No o Have you had recent hernia or lower abdominal surgery? No o Does the pain take the form of a gripping pain settling with rest? No Addressing the Iliac artery we ask: o Have you noticed the pain occurs particularly with intense exercise and then ease with rest over 30 minutes or so? No – The pain occurs with all activity. This will narrow our differential diagnosis somewhat; nerve entrapment and external iliac artery fibrosis are very unlikely. We proceed to examination to narrow it further. By palpating painful structures, and recreating the pain through diagnostic manoeuvres we move toward a diagnosis, step 3. Palpate & recreate: The most evidence-based test for the adductor /Gracilis enthesopathy is tenderness at the proximal enthesis of the adductors, this can be differentiated from Adductor longus pathology at the musculoskeletal junction as this is some 3-4 cm distal to the enthesopathy of insertion. Guarding and adduction weakness is seen with both pathologies. Widespread bone tenderness over the pubic tubercle may indicate pubic bone stress injury. Symptomatically this may be similar to a stress fracture; (this is where the directed questioning should have hinted at stress fracture) the later is however, usually more inferior and posterior. An inferior ischial ramus fracture will usually however have a positive Hop test – where the patient is asked to hop on one leg and this exacerbates the pain with radiation to the buttock can be of help here Palpation of the area indicates pain along the adductor longus muscle and tendon. The point of maximal tenderness is slightly distal to the enthesis rather than directly at it. Given our suspicion following questioning and findings on examination we may proceed to step 4. Alleviate and Investigate. We may need no further investigation at this point. A careful rehabilitation programme with appropriate initial conservative management should result in steady improvement with a general and then sport specific return to activity. If imaging confirmation were required both ultrasound imaging and magnetic resonance imaging would demonstrate the musculo-tendinous junction well.
  19. 19. Chapter 5 THE GROIN TRIANGLE 19 A 26 year-old rugby union player presents with worsening ‘groin pain’ over the previous 2 years. Interventions had included non-steroidal anti- inflammatory drugs and simple analgesia. Pain developed after 20-30 minutes of activity and when sever would last until the next day. Heavy training and running particularly game time aggravated the pain. The player volunteered that rest was the only true relieving factor. The pain was a non-specific ache but progressed to a sharp pinch when severe. This is a presentation of groin pain, as such proceed to step 1, define and align the groin triangle. Define and align; As in case 1 expose the patient appropriately and define the groin triangle according to it’s bony landmarks. Align the patient’s pain on the triangle. Here it is a non-specific pain. In an effort to localise the pain, ask the patient to point to where the pain is with one finger. The patient localises the pain to within the triangle. From this point we recommend the reader attempt to exclude the potential pathologies. From our table ‘within the triangle’ the potential causal structures are: We proceed to differentiate between these structures, step 2. Listen and localise: Addressing the psoas muscle we ask; o Is there pain above & below inguinal ligament? Yes there is o Is there associated snapping at hip joint? Maybe, it sometimes clicks a little. Addressing rectus femoris tendinopathy/apophysitis we ask: o Does knee movement affect pain? No. This patient is too old for an apophysitis, but rectus femoris strain would
  20. 20. Chapter 5 THE GROIN TRIANGLE 20 have to be differentiated from iliopsoas as they both act as hip flexors. Addressing femoral hernia we ask: o Is there a painful lump infero-medial to pubic tubercle? No Addressing neuropathy we ask: o Have you noticed any abnormal sensation of the skin in the area? No This will narrow our differential diagnosis somewhat, and we proceed to examination to narrow it further. By palpating painful structures, and recreating the pain through diagnostic manoeuvres we move toward a diagnosis, step 3. Palpate & recreate: The most evidence-based test for the iliopsoas strain is a modified Thomas test, fig. 1. Stand a patient at the end of the examination table so the buttocks are resting at it’s edge, They then take the knee of the unaffected leg in their hands and lie back onto the table. The examiner ensures the hip of the unaffected side is fully flexed while extending the affected side. Pain is experienced above and below the inguinal ligament. Fig. 1: modified Thomas test. < ? insert picture from B & K?> To differentiate from a rectus femoris pathology one must remember the anatomy of this muscle. Travelling from the AIIS (anterior inferior iliac spine) to the tibial tuberosity it spans both the hip and knee. If knee movement alters pain at the hip it suggests pathology of this muscle. This is best tested with the Rectus Femoris contracture test, fig. 2. With the patient lying prone, the knee is fully flexed. Pathology of the rectus femoris will cause it to shorten; this is accommodated by involuntary flexion at the hip, indicating a positive test. Fig. 2: Rectus Femoris contracture test. < ? insert picture from B & K?> Both of these tests are negative. Palpation for any painful masses inferomedial to the pubic tubercle is negative and sensation in the area is intact. Revisit your diagnosis Returning to our anatomy, one structure that lies both within the triangle and lateral to it, is the femoro-acetabular joint. This has been categorised as lateral to the triangle to draw the reader to the greater trochanter triangle. This deals in depth with the hip joint and structures around it. Femoro-acetabular pathology which often presents as groin pain, may result in a loss of range of movement at the hip. In a situation such as damage to the acetabular labrum, however, loss of movement may be subtle. Given the nature of the presentation to date and the findings on examination we move to the lateral section of the triangle. Listen and localise; Addressing the hip joint we ask the question: o Have you noticed any clicking in your hip joint and/or catching? Yes I noticed it clicks sometimes. Palpate and recreate; o A discriminative test is the impingement test Fig 3. The hip is flexed fully, adducted and internal rotation is added. This correlates very well with labral injury.
  21. 21. Chapter 5 THE GROIN TRIANGLE 21 Figure 3. The hip impingement test. < ? insert picture from B & K?> At this point we may proceed to confirm our clinical suspicion, step 4. Alleviate and Investigate. A plain film x-ray of the hip may identify some abnormal femoral head neck offset, or acetabular dysplasia. Both features indicate femoro-acetabular impingement, which may cause labral injury. Where this is not present we proceed to an MRI or MR arthrography of the hip to confirm our clinical suspicion of an acetabular labral injury. Summary Securing a diagnosis is the obvious first step in the treatment of any problem. Groin pain is often insidious in onset so it is often chronic when the athlete presents. An anatomically crowded area can make differentiation between structures difficult. This can be further complicated by an overload pattern forcing other structures to bear more than their normal workload. They will, if the underlying cause is not addressed, themselves become inflamed and painful. Do not be afraid to consider a number of pathologies as the causal agent in chronic groin pain. The greater the chronicity the more likely multiple pathologies are. As is illustrated in case 3 we must be prepared to revisit the diagnosis and shape our differential diagnosis according to the symptoms and signs which become apparent.
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