In this Article

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:

  • Severe 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
  • Pain the worsens with twisting movements
  • Tenderness or bruising on the upper thigh or lower 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:

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

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
  • MRI or CT scan

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 provide an injection of cortisone, a steroid that can help reduce inflammation and ease more severe symptoms.
  • Physical therapy. To regain full mobility, your doctor may 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.

Prevention

The best way to prevent sports hernias is to avoid twisting and repetitive motions that are common in some sports. If that isn’t possible, you may be able to prevent a sports hernia by following a few best practices during and after exercise.

  • At the first sign of strain or stress in the groin or lower abdomen, rest briefly to ensure the injury doesn’t worsen.
  • Apply ice after intense exercise to reduce inflammation.
  • Stretch and do exercises to retain flexibility and strength of the surrounding muscles so less strain is placed on your abdominals and groin.

If you participate in a sport that involves lots of twisting motions, talk with your doctor about additional steps you may be able to take to avoid a sports hernia and stay in the game for longer.

What is a Sports Hernia?

A sports hernia is a tear or strain in the groin or lower abdomen. It is not the same as a regular hernia. It is usually the result of a tear or sometimes a strain of the muscle, tendon, or ligament in the lower abdomen (belly) during an athletic movement that involves twisting, turning or kicking. They are sometimes called a core muscle injury.

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.
  • Osteitis pubis [os-tee-AHY-tis PYOO-bis]. This inflammation of the tissue surrounding the pubic joints can also be a source of groin pain.
  • Inguinal [ING-gwuh-nl] 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 obliques [oh-BLEEKS]. The obliques are the muscles that run along the sides of the abdomen and attach to the pubic bone, allowing the body to twist side to side. In rare cases of severe strain or tears of the obliques, surgery may be required.