As is the case with lower back pain, labeling something a sports hernia only refers to the general location of the pain (upper groin or lower abdominal area), not the specific source of the discomfort. One thing that is common with all sports hernias is that some type of tearing or weakening of the lower abdominal wall is involved. Successful treatment involves a board-certified physician pinpointing the specific affected area.
Often resulting from overuse of groin muscles, pain from a sports hernia can linger for weeks or months. The main symptom associated with sports hernias, occurring in 5 to 18 percent of all athletes at some point, is chronic groin pain, with additional symptoms including:
• Lower abdominal pain
• Pain in the testicles
• Pain when coughing, sneezing
• Lower abdominal pain that slowly worsens (common in runners)
• Pain that returns when lifting or exerting any significant force
It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact location of a sports hernia when no bulging tissue can be felt. A pelvic radiograph (an x-ray focusing on the lower abdominal region) helps with diagnosis. In some cases, doctors may have a patient perform certain activities like running in place or doing sit-ups to determine what movements trigger the pain.
A sports hernia isn’t the same as a “regular hernia,” since the term also refers to general groin pain. For this reason, surgery isn’t the only remedy that can be successful. In some cases, in fact, pain goes away on its own. Treatments, usually starting with conservative options first, for sports hernias often include:
• Anti-inflammatory medications
• Rest (and temporarily avoiding the activity that likely caused the muscle strain)
• Ice packs (applied intermittently for 15-20 minute internals 3-4 times a day)
• Minimally invasive surgery (when other treatments fail to provide significant relief)
Due to biological differences within the inguinal canal (passage in the anterior abdominal wall), male athletes tend to experience sports hernias more than female athletes. When surgery is necessary to strengthen tissues, the success rate is high. Many athletes return to their previous performance level after a few weeks of rehabilitation.
As with any serious injury or surgical procedure, getting a second opinion is important. Schedule an in-person consultation with a spine surgeon, Santa Monica families can turn to, and feel confident in your diagnosis and treatment options.