Sports hernias affect an estimated 5 percent of all athletes, according to the Atlantic Coast Conference. The injury is most common in those who play sports that require frequent twisting and turning, including hockey and soccer players. While exercise can cause a sports hernia to develop, exercise also can help to rehabilitate the hernia.
A sports hernia is a condition that occurs when the groin muscle tears due to overuse from training or exercise, according to Dr. Richard Cattey, a general, vascular and laparascopic surgeon interviewed on the Medical Moment website. The condition is characterized by pain and discomfort in the groin area, which is located where the leg meets the hip, according to David Edell, a certified athletic trainer writing on Athletic Advisor. Athletes may experience further injuries to the area, such as inflammation of the tendons that rest near the groin muscles.
Because sports hernias often are the result of overuse, they may begin as a slightly noticeable pain during exercise, according to Amy Davis, an athletic trainer with Virginia Tech University, on the Atlantic Coast Conference website. The pain can progress to where you experience it during your everyday activities, including getting into a car. However, if you completely tear the groin area, the pain may be immediate and acute.
Stretching before a big game or other athletic activity can help to prevent a sports hernia from occurring, according to Dr. Cattey. Stretching helps to warm up the muscles, preventing a sudden turn or stop from lengthening the groin muscles too far, which can result in a sports hernia. Stretching exercises to stretch the groin area include leg circles and gentle lunges from side to side. Continuing to stretch throughout the game can help as well.
Rehabilitation exercises to reduce pain and stretching associated with a sports hernia are often recommended before more invasive treatments, such as surgery, according to Edell. Exercises should include a combination of flexibility, strength and stability. Exercises include abdominal-strengthening exercises, such as abdominal crunches, oblique twists and other exercises to strengthen the abdominals. Exercises to strengthen the adductor -- outer thigh -- muscles also can help to strengthen the area around the groin. To perform, stand with your feet shoulder width apart and slowly lift your leg to the side as far as you can lift it comfortably. Lower, then repeat 10 to 15 times. Switch to the other leg and repeat for two additional sets.
If surgery is recommended for your sports hernia, your surgeon may recommend a period of rest from athletic activities for between six and 12 weeks, according to Davis. Some level of exercise is permitted during this time, however. You may begin low-impact activities such as jogging or using an elliptical machine between 10 and 14 days following your operation. Three weeks after your surgery, you can resume light weightlifting. Your physician may recommend sports rehabilitation that can focus on exercises that help you regain function and strength.