If you experience pain after making a great save that required you to twist your body, you may have a sports hernia. Also known as athletic pubalgia, this injury occurs when you forcefully twist your body and cause a tear in your obliques, their tendons or the tendons located at your upper thigh. Although any severe pain should be seen by a doctor, a few symptoms will help you pinpoint whether you have a sports or other type of hernia.
Feeling the Pain
The most common symptom of a sports hernia is pain in the groin. In minor cases, the pain may start out so weak that you may ignore it, but in most cases, the pain will be severe at the moment of injury. In both cases, rest will alleviate the pain and you may not notice any problems when you're not engaged in sports. When you do return to the game, the pain also returns. While centered in the groin, sports hernia pain can spread to the abdomen and the inner thigh. Inguinal hernias cause discomfort in the groin during both regular activities and sports; hiatal hernias rarely cause pain.
Checking for Bulges
Although called a hernia, a sports hernia does not produce the telltale bulges of true hernias. However, if the injury is left untreated, the tendons and muscles in the area become weak. This can result in an inguinal hernia where the abdominal organs protrude from the tissue and cause a bulge in the groin area. Because hiatal hernias occur when the stomach protrudes into the esophagus, they don't cause external bulges.
Visiting the Doctor
The best way to determine if your groin pain is a sports hernia and to have it treated properly is to visit the doctor. The doctor will ask you questions to determine how the injury was caused. He will then feel the area to test for any sign of inguinal hernia and to pinpoint where the pain is located. The doctor may also have you perform a few exercises to see if the pain matches that of a sports hernia. If he is unsure, your doctor may ask you to have x-rays taken or to undergo an MRI or bone scan.
Treating the Hernia
Once your sports hernia is definitively diagnosed, your doctor will most likely recommend seven to 10 days of rest as well as anti-inflammatory medication and ice packs to reduce the pain and swelling. After this rest period, you may be given light exercises to do at home to strengthen the area or you may be asked to visit a physical therapist. If you follow your doctor's guidelines and the pain still persists you may need surgery to repair the damage.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Sports Hernia (Athletic Pubalgia)
- Aetna: Athletic Pubalgia Surgery
- SportsMD: Sports Hernia & Athletic Pubalgia
- Healthwise Handbook, Donald W. Kemper, MPH; 2001