Sports can be tough on the body, and injuries are not uncommon, particularly when intense activity may overload the muscles and joints. Injuries to the groin, including sports hernias, are more likely to occur in competitive sports that require repetitive fast twisting and turning movements, such as soccer and hockey.

In this article, we discuss sports hernias in more detail, including where they occur and their causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

What Is Sports Hernia?

A sports hernia is a soft tissue injury in the lower abdomen, pelvis, or groin. Many people may refer to it using various other terms, including athletic pubalgia, sportsman’s groin, sportsman’s hernia, Gilmore’s groin, and incipient hernia. Although many of the names of this injury refer to it as a hernia, it is actually a different injury.

A sports hernia presents with similar symptoms and occurs in the same area as an inguinal hernia, but it is different. An inguinal hernia occurs when tissue, such as the intestines, protrudes through a weak spot in the inguinal canal. A sports hernia is an injury to the soft tissue in the abdominal and groin area.

Additionally, an inguinal hernia presents with a bulge in the groin, whereas there is no evident bulge, or true hernia, with sports hernias, which can make diagnosis difficult.

However, although a sports hernia is not a complete herniation, it may lead to a traditional hernia.

Where Does Sports Hernia Occur?

A sports hernia occurs in the pelvic area, lower abdomen, or groin. It most typically affects the soft tissues that attach either the oblique or thigh muscles to the pubic bone. If there is strain on these tissues from intense contractions or sudden twists when a person is playing sports, this force can result in damage to these tissues, which may lead to a sports hernia.

Causes of Sports Hernia

Typically, a sports hernia is the result of physical activity involving sudden twists and turns that may cause a tear in the soft tissue of the lower abdomen or groin. For example, they are more common in vigorous sports, such as ice hockey, soccer, wrestling, and football.

Sports hernias usually affect younger males who actively participate in sport, which experts believe is because they have a narrower pelvis than females. Sports hernias also occur in females, but less commonly, and they are relatively rare in children and older adults. Although these injuries are more prevalent among those who actively engage in sport, those who do not do so can still sustain a sports hernia.

Symptoms

A sports hernia usuallyTrusted Source causes pain during exercise that subsides with rest. If it results from an acute injury, some people may feel sudden, severe pain during the initial tear. The area may then be tender to the touch. Without treatment, the injury may result in disabling pain that can prevent people from resuming sporting activities.

A sports hernia does not cause a visible bulge in the groin area. However, it is possible for a sports hernia to develop into an inguinal one.

Treatment

A painful sports hernia can limit a person’s ability to function and continue sports activities. Prompt treatment ensures that they can get back to their regular routine and reduces their risk of recurrent hernias or further complications, such as developing an inguinal hernia.

Treatment options may include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These can help reduce swelling and pain associated with a sports hernia.
  • Rest: Taking time off from regular physical activity can help with the healing process. This rest period should last at least a week. Applying ice can help with pain and swelling.
  • Cortisone injection: If pain persists and does not improve with rest, a doctor may suggest this treatment option.
  • Physical therapy: Strength training and flexibility exercises strengthen weakened muscles and can help prevent another sports hernia.