Versus Arthritis Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis
University of Nottingham

Biomechanics in hip and groin pain in young footballers


We are constantly being urged to become a more active nation and football is one of the most popular sports being taken up in the UK. It is important that people know the best ways to exercise safely to keep their joints healthy.  Young professional footballers can develop a hip problem involving changes to the bones of the hip joint and socket. This hip condition is known as Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI) and can cause pain and stiffness of the hip and groin, which can change the way the hip moves.   The condition is present in 14-35% of the general population but is much more common in professional footballers (72%) and can lead to osteoarthritis. The changes to the hip bones can happen as early as 10-12 years of age and progress as the bones are developing in adolescence. It is important to learn more about why FAI occurs, how it can be found early and how it can be treated and prevented. 

Researchers are working together to combine a clinical study and a bioengineering study. They are looking at how the hips move and what muscles are affected in footballers with FAI aged 9-21 years, compared with young school, college and university students who do not play football regularly and do not have FAI. 

Physiotherapy tests are being developed to observe how well those taking part move.  They are also tested in a laboratory using a system that measures movement in 3-D, while pads on the muscles record the activity of the muscles during these movements. The information gained will provide screening tests to detect changes in hip movements that suggest FAI. The laboratory tests will help us develop exercise programmes to treat and prevent FAI in the next phase of our research on professional and recreational footballers. 



What the research hopes to achieve

  • Develop tests of how well people can move their hip to provide simple clinical tests for assessing FAI.
  • Provide proof that these movement tests are accurate by using 3-D motion analysis (Vicon) and measuring the electrical activity of the muscles using surface Electromyography (EMG), to find out which muscles are not working normally.
  • Compare movements and muscle activity between footballers with and without painful FAI, and school children (both normal weight and obese) who do not play football regularly.
Work Package Mechanisms of Movement Dysfunction and Interventions (WP3) 
Biomarkers (WP2)
Principal Investigator Dr Martin Warner (University of Southampton) 
Investigator Nadine Booysen
Collaborators  Premiership and recreational football clubs; Sarah Mottram and Mark Comerford (Movement Performance Solutions); Prof Kim Bennell (University of Melbourne)