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Sports Hernia

What is a sports hernia?

A sports hernia, also known as athletic pubalgia, is a painful condition characterized by soft tissue injury in the groin area. Unlike traditional hernias, which involve a hole or weakness in the abdominal wall, a sports hernia typically results from repetitive stress or sudden, forceful movements that strain the muscles, tendons, or ligaments of the lower abdomen and groin. It often occurs in athletes engaged in sports that require quick changes of direction, twisting motions, or kicking activities.

What are the causes of sports hernias?

Sports hernias are often caused by activities that place excessive stress on the muscles and connective tissues of the lower abdomen and groin. Factors contributing to the development of sports hernias include repetitive, high-impact sports activities such as soccer, hockey, football, or tennis, sudden, forceful movements such as sprinting, jumping, or twisting, weak core muscles, poor biomechanics, previous injury or surgery to the groin area, increasing susceptibility to soft tissue damage.

What are the symptoms of sports hernias?

The symptoms of a sports hernia can vary depending on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. Common symptoms include:

  1. Groin pain or discomfort that worsens with activity, especially during twisting, turning, or kicking motions.
  2. Tenderness or swelling in the groin area, often localized to one side.
  3. Pain with specific movements such as coughing, sneezing, or bearing down.
  4. Pain that radiates to the lower abdomen, inner thigh, or testicles in some cases.
  5. Limited range of motion or stiffness in the hip or groin region.
  6. Weakness or instability in the pelvic area, affecting balance and coordination.

How are sports hernias diagnosed?

Dr. Shane J. Nho diagnoses sports hernia through a comprehensive evaluation, including a combination of medical history assessment, physical examination, and imaging studies. Proper diagnosis is crucial for determining the underlying cause of pain and guiding appropriate treatment strategies to alleviate symptoms and improve function. Diagnostic tools may include:

Medical History

Reviewing the patient’s history of symptoms, sports participation, and previous injuries or surgeries.

Physical Examination

A thorough examination of the groin area to assess for tenderness, swelling, and signs of muscle or tendon injury.

Imaging studies

Imaging studies play a crucial role in the diagnosis of sports hernias, helping clinicians visualize the extent of soft tissue damage and rule out other potential causes of groin pain. Common imaging modalities used in the evaluation of sports hernias include:

  • Ultrasound: Ultrasound imaging is often the initial diagnostic tool used to assess soft tissue structures in the groin area. It can provide real-time images, allowing clinicians to evaluate the integrity of muscles, tendons, and ligaments, as well as identify any abnormalities or tears.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): MRI is a highly valuable imaging modality for evaluating soft tissue injuries, including sports hernias. It offers detailed images of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the pelvic region, allowing for precise localization of pathology and assessment of severity.
  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: While less commonly used than MRI or ultrasound, CT scans may be employed in cases where additional detail of bony structures is necessary. CT scans can help assess for pelvic fractures, bone abnormalities, or other underlying conditions that may contribute to groin pain.
  • Dynamic MRI or Ultrasound: In some instances, dynamic imaging techniques may be utilized during MRI or ultrasound to assess the groin area under stress or with specific movements. This can provide valuable information about the dynamic nature of the injury and help guide treatment decisions.
At a Glance

Dr. Shane Nho

  • Board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon
  • Team Physician for Chicago Bulls, White Sox, Steel
  • Performs more than 700 procedures each year
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