Sports Hernia Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Know the Signs & Symptoms

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The typical sports hernia, or athletic pubalgia, occurs when the muscle layer of the abdominal wall in one specific area becomes thin relative to other areas. This can result in a tear or strain in one of the abdominal muscles, or the fascia of the abdominal wall. When this occurs, the underlying internal organs, specifically the intestines, push up against the muscular wall and cause significant pain.

The soft tissues that are most often affected by sports hernias are the obliques and the lower abdomen. The tendons that attach the obliques to the pubic bone are particularly susceptible. Sports hernias are also known to stretch and tear the tendons that attach the thigh muscles to the pubic bone. They are most common in sports that require players to plant their feet and twist their abdomens with full exertion, such as football.

A sports hernia is different from an inguinal hernia. An inguinal hernia results from the weakening and separation of the muscles, causing the internal organs to push through and create a visible bulge in the lower abdomen or groin.

Symptoms of a Sports Hernia

A sports hernia rarely causes any visible bulge in the muscle wall, so it is often overlooked for some time before it is diagnosed. Hernia symptoms in women are far more subtle than in men. As a result, women can suffer for a long time before getting an accurate diagnosis.

The most common symptom of a sports hernia is a dull, aching pain in the lower abdomen or groin that gradually becomes more severe. This pain generally worsens with exercise or activities such as running or weight lifting.

Sports hernias are far less common than inguinal hernias. They are generally associated with forceful, high-intensity, repeated twisting movements required in many vigorous sports, including football, soccer, tennis, wrestling and ice hockey.

Sports Hernia Diagnosis & Treatment

If you suspect a sports hernia, see your physician for a physical examination. A sports hernia gone untreated can lead to chronic pain that prevents you from your regular sports activity. A doctor will ask about the injury and test for pain by asking you to do a push up or other physical test. Imaging tests such as MRIs and x-rays can also be used to make a diagnosis.

Treatment for a sports hernia involves 7 to 10 days of rest. Anti-inflammatory medication and ice packs can be used to reduce pain and swelling. Once the rest period is over, your doctor may give you basic physical therapy exercises to do at home that will help strengthen the affected area. In some cases you may need to see a physical therapist. Most athletes are back to normal after 4 to 6 weeks.

Over time a sports hernia can turn into a inguinal hernia. If symptoms continue or return, hernia surgery to repair the torn tissues is typically the next treatment option. Many athletes who undergo the surgery are healed within 6 to 12 weeks and are able to resume their regular sports activity without any complications.

According to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, 90 percent of those who get hernia surgery are able to return to sports activity. Still, for some patients the tissues tear again and additional surgery is required.

 

Sources:

Anderson, K, et al. Hip and Groin Injuries in Athletes. Am J of Sports Med, Jul 2001; 29: 521 - 533.

Farber AJ, Wilckens JH. Sports hernia: diagnosis and therapeutic approach. http://www.jaaos.org/cgi/content/full/15/8/507. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2007 Aug;15(8):507-14.Click here to read

Mayo Clinic Medical Edge, Sports Hernias Best Treated With Inactivity. Jan. 16, 2006.

Sports Hernia (Athletic Pubalgia). (2010, September). Retrieved April 02, 2016, from http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00573

Painter, T. (2014). Symptoms of a Sports Hernia. Retrieved April 02, 2016, from http://www.livestrong.com/article/42718-symptoms-sports-hernia/

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