Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Knee News

Rare Cause of Thigh Pain in a Soccer Player

When a patient's symptoms last longer than expected, doctors take notice. Most muscular or soft tissue injuries heal within six to eight weeks. If symptoms last beyond that time, it could be something more serious.

That's the case for this 21-year-old male soccer player with severe thigh pain and numbness. Playing soccer made the symptoms worse. Ten months earlier, he had received a direct blow to the upper right thigh where the pain and numbness were now centered.

A careful review of his history and examination led to the diagnosis of meralgia paresthetica. Meralgia means pain in the thigh. Paresthetica refers to the numbness. This condition occurs when the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve of the thigh gets pinched by something.

This young man had surgery to fix the problem. When the doctors looked inside his thigh, they found a band of fibrous tissue cutting across the nerve. After cutting the band of tissue, the patient was symptom-free. He eventually went back to playing soccer without any more problems.

There are many possible causes of meralgia paresthetica. Sports injury is an uncommon cause. The doctors report this case because of its rarity. They remind other sports medicine doctors that meralgia paresthetica can be caused by tumors pressing on the nerve. Diabetes can also cause nerve damage and symptoms of thigh pain and numbness as described here.

Sports doctors who recognize a nerve entrapment syndrome quickly can save the player time and money. Surgery to release the nerve is advised for high-level athletes.


Bülent Ulkar, MD, et al. Meralgia Paresthetica: A Long-standing Performance-Limiting Cause of Anterior Thigh Pain in a Soccer Player. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. September/October 2003. Vol. 31. No. 5. Pp. 787-789.

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