What is a Sports Hernia? 

There are several different kinds of groin injuries that can be mistaken for sports hernias, including:

  • Stress fractures. The pubic bone can suffer stress fracture because of repetitive impact.
  • Inguinal hernia. When the lower abdominal muscles stretch and tear in this type of hernia, they do cause a bulge. Inguinal hernia often occurs in weightlifters.

Sports hernias can be a tear or strain of any groin or lower abdominal muscle, but most often involve the abdominal rectus and adductor muscles. The rectus are the muscles that run along the front of the abdomen and attach to the pubic bone, allowing the body to situp and do “crunches.” The adductor muscles run from the pubic bone to the thigh and pull the leg inward toward the center of the body. The most common area of injury is where the tendon of the rectus muscle joins the tendon of the adductor over the pubic bone. In rare cases of severe tear of the muscles surgery may be required.

Symptoms

Sports hernias have a few specific symptoms that can help doctors identify them from other types of groin injuries. These symptoms include the following:

  • Groin pain with no visible bulge
  • Pain that goes away with rest and returns with activity
  • Pain that is isolated to one side of the abdomen

When to See a Doctor 

If you are experiencing the symptoms of a sports hernia, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. And if at any point you feel numbness in the groin or loss of sensation in the pelvic area, you should seek immediate emergency assistance. This can be a symptom of a more serious injury. 

Causes

Sports hernias are caused by the stress of repetitive twisting motions that are found in some sports. Athletes are the most likely to suffer sports hernias, especially if they participate in:

  • Soccer
  • Ice hockey
  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Ice skating
  • Tennis

Diagnosis and Tests 

Sports hernias can be diagnosed by your doctor using a combination of methods. Because groin injuries have similar symptoms, it may be necessary for your doctor to do several rounds of testing before being able to confirm that you have a sports hernia. Tests may include the following:

  • Physical exam
  • Discussion of family and personal medical history
  • X-rays
  • Ultrasound
  • MRI or CT scan

Treatments & Prevention

Treatments

Sports hernias can be treated using two different types of treatment: surgical or non-surgical. Non-surgical treatments are effective in 90% of sports hernias and may include the following treatments:

  • Rest. Your doctor may recommend halting physical activity for 7 to 10 days to allow the injury to rest and recover.
  • Ice. Applying ice to the area can reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Medicine. Anti-inflammatory pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin can help control swelling and symptoms of discomfort.
  • Injections. In some cases, your doctor may offer an injection to assist with healing the injured muscle or tendon.
  • Physical therapy. To regain full mobility, your doctor will likely recommend physical therapy.

Surgery is rarely necessary for sports hernias but can be of benefit in extreme tears of the abductor muscles. It requires a longer recovery time and physical therapy is recommended post-surgery to regain full range of motion.