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Sports Hernia Treatment Options

What is a sports hernia?

A sports hernia, also known as athletic pubalgia, is a painful soft tissue injury that occurs in the groin area, typically during sports or activities that involve sudden changes in direction, twisting, or repetitive movements. Unlike a traditional hernia, which involves a protrusion of abdominal contents through a weakened abdominal wall, a sports hernia is a tear or strain in the muscles, tendons, or ligaments of the lower abdomen or groin region. This injury commonly affects athletes involved in sports such as soccer, hockey, football, and tennis, where there is significant stress placed on the pelvic and abdominal muscles. Symptoms of a sports hernia may include groin pain, especially during physical activity, tenderness or swelling in the groin area, and discomfort with activities such as running, jumping, or kicking. Diagnosis is typically made through a combination of physical examination, imaging studies such as MRI or ultrasound, and possibly diagnostic injections. 

How are sports hernias treated?

Treatment for sports hernias focuses on relieving symptoms, resolving the underlying issues, and restoring optimal function to the affected area. The chosen treatment strategy is tailored to each individual, considering factors like the severity of the injury, the patient’s activity level, overall health, and specific anatomical factors contributing to the condition. Options for treatment span from conservative approaches such as rest, physical therapy, and activity modification to more aggressive interventions like surgery, particularly in cases of persistent or severe symptoms. The goal of treatment is to facilitate healing, reduce pain, and enable a safe return to normal activities and sports participation.

What non-operative options are available?

  • Rest and Activity Modification: Avoiding activities that exacerbate symptoms and allowing adequate time for tissue healing.
  • Physical Therapy: Targeted exercises to strengthen the core muscles, improve flexibility, and address biomechanical issues contributing to the injury.
  • Pain Management: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroid injections, or other modalities to alleviate pain and inflammation.

What operative options are available?

Surgical Repair

In cases where conservative measures fail to provide relief, surgical intervention may be considered. The goal of surgery is to repair or reinforce the damaged tissues of the abdominal wall or groin, restoring stability and function to the area. Various surgical techniques may be employed, including open or minimally invasive procedures tailored to the individual’s needs.

What Does Rehabilitation Look Like?

Post-operative rehabilitation is essential for optimizing outcomes and facilitating a safe return to sports activities. Physical therapy typically involves a progressive program focusing on core strengthening, functional exercises, and gradual return to sport-specific activities. Patient education on proper movement mechanics, injury prevention strategies, and long-term management is crucial for preventing recurrence and promoting overall musculoskeletal health.

In conclusion, managing sports hernias requires a comprehensive approach addressing both the acute symptoms and underlying factors contributing to the injury. By implementing appropriate treatment strategies and emphasizing proper rehabilitation, individuals with sports hernias can achieve symptom relief, restore function, and return to their desired level of activity.

Dr. Shane J. Nho is a board-certified fellowship trained sports medicine orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in the treatment of sports hernias. If you believe you are affected by a sports hernia, schedule a consultation today with our experienced orthopaedic care team.

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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