What is a Sports Hernia?

Being involved in sports is a very rewarding aspect of life. Athletic activity helps maintain fitness, strength, mental clarity, reduces depression, and provides valuable social interaction. Considering all of the benefits, it can be easy to forget the risks involved in playing, such as injuries, joint and muscle damage, and bone pain. Sports hernias are one injury that may cause a sports medicine professional to bench you for the better part of a season.

Sports Hernias and Physiology

When you think of the word “hernia” you may picture an ugly situation where your internal organs prolapse through your abdominal wall, usually from lifting something too heavy. A sports hernia, or athletic pubalgia, is a slightly different issue. There is no actual bulge through the abdominal wall, though the same weakening of this inguinal canal region of the abdomen has occurred. The resulting pain in the groin area makes movement difficult, if not nearly impossible. The soreness may extend to the lower abdomen or into a man’s testicles.

Causes of Sports Hernia

Repetitive motion is the leading cause of sports hernia, when too much stress is placed on the same abdominal muscle area repeatedly. An example of this is a soccer player, who may kick hundreds of times over a short period in practice or during a game. Changing direction quickly, as seen in ice hockey or tennis, can also cause a sports hernia, as can disproportionate strength between muscles in a group.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A physical examination by a sports medicine professional is usually the first method of diagnosing a sports hernia. This exam may be followed by an MRI or other type of scan to determine the extent of the damage. For a mild hernia, you may be given anti-inflammatory medication and advised to rest, though it’s important to understand that once a hernia has occurred, it may happen repetitively until the weakness is surgically corrected. After the surgery a course of physical therapy is typically recommended, and the athlete can usually return to playing within a few months of the injury as long as the recovery process does not meet with further complications.

Sports medicine professionals treat sports hernias frequently, and the prognosis is very good. Delaying treatment will only result in additional pain and healing time. Be sure to get medical attention immediately if you have been injured playing sports.

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