Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

Cause of Groin Pain Is Frequently Hard to Determine in Children

By
WebMD Health News

Nov. 15, 1999 (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) -- Parents should never ignore their child's complaint of knee or groin pain because pain in either area can be a symptom of a potentially deforming hip injury, two leading orthopedic experts tell WebMD.

"Groin pain is a frequent complaint of adolescents, but the cause is often difficult to diagnose because the many different parts of the hip can produce similar types of pain," says John W. O'Kane, MD, the team physician for the University of Washington (UW) Huskies football team in Seattle.

Conditions ranging from a benign muscle pull or tendon strain to a "potentially catastrophic" stress fracture of the neck of the femur [thighbone] can cause similar types of pain," O'Kane tells WebMD. O'Kane reviews symptoms of and treatment for adolescent hip pain in the cover article of the Oct. 15 issue of American Family Physician.

Groin pain can be a signal of the "potentially catastrophic" stress fracture known as a "slipped capital femoral epiphysis," simply nicknamed 'slip,' according to O'Kane, an assistant professor of orthopedics at UW's School of Medicine.

"A 'slip' is a very, very treacherous injury," agrees James T. Bennett, MD, a specialist in pediatric orthopedics at Tulane University, New Orleans. "When we talk about adolescents with hip pain, the number one, number two, and number three thing that examining doctors should think about is this slippage of the growth plate."

"Delayed treatment can result in deformity," he warns. "Being slow to act on a child's complaint of groin pain has been the source of guilty feelings for many parents who didn't bring the child in for treatment as promptly as they would have if they had known the potential seriousness of the symptom."

Typical patients are "overweight male adolescents who are in a period of rapid growth," says O'Kane. "Symptoms can include hip or knee pain or a limp."

When a 'slip' is suspected, the patient should avoid putting any weight on the affected hip and should have X-rays. If the suspicion is confirmed, "the patient should be referred immediately to an orthopedist for surgery," O'Kane advises. The child's other hip also should be checked by a physician because " injury [in both hips] is present in as many as 40% of all patients," he adds.

"Special consideration must be given by doctors to the fact that the skeletons of young people are still growing," says O'Kane. The growing portions are weaker than surrounding bone or tendon and "therefore susceptible to acute and chronic injuries."

Those growing areas, spongy patches of cartilage located at each end of bones such as the femur, are known as 'growth plates.' They can be likened to the mobile blocks or plates that make up the crust of the earth.

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
 
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
 
mother and daughter talking
Tool
child brushing his teeth
Slideshow
 
Sipping hot tea
Slideshow
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Article
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
 
tissue box
Quiz
Child with adhd
Slideshow