A sports hernia is a strain or tear of any soft tissue (muscle, tendon, ligament) in the lower abdomen or groin area. Because different tissues may be affected and a traditional hernia may not exist, the medical community prefers the term “athletic pubalgia” to refer to this type of injury.
Symptoms of sports hernia
Symptoms of sports hernia may include one or more of the following:
- Sudden and severe groin pain at the time of the injury
- Groin pain that goes away with rest, but returns during sports activity
- Groin pain that is more commonly felt on one side of the groin area only (unilateral), rather than on both sides
- Pain that only appears during twisting movements
- Pain associated with other movements that involve the deep abdominal muscles, such as half sit-ups (stomach crunches) or coughing
- Tenderness or bruising in the upper thigh and/or lower abdomen
- Groin pain that gradually increases from intermittent to constant, and/or pain that develops to the point playing sports becomes impossible
Even if none of the above symptoms are present, the often-vague nature of the injury means some athletes may still have sports hernia if the only symptom is chronic groin pain or lower athletic performance.
Treatment protocols for sports hernia remain controversial. Some practitioners advise nonsurgical treatments such as rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. Others believe it can only be corrected with surgery.