Saturday, July 26, 2014
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Preventing the dreaded sports hernia

A sports hernia is a tear to the oblique abdominal muscles in the pelvic region of the abdomen. Unlike other hernias, the sports hernia has no visible bulge under the skin.

Preventing the dreaded sports hernia

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A sports hernia is a tear to the oblique abdominal muscles in the pelvic region of the abdomen. Unlike other hernias, the sports hernia has no visible bulge under the skin. The pain associated with a sports hernia resembles a groin strain, but doesn’t respond as well to rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medications. The pain tends to return with a vengeance once the athlete returns to the sport.

A sports hernia occurs with the weakening of the muscles or tendons in a thin region of the lower abdominal wall. Once overexerted, a muscle tear occurs inside the groin. The oblique muscles attach at the top of the pubic bone while stronger hip muscles attach to the bottom of the pelvic bone. When both contract simultaneously and with a lot of force, a tug-of-war of the pelvis ensues.

Because the thigh muscles tend to be stronger than trunk, the weaker abdominal oblique muscles tear, resulting in a sports hernia. Sports hernias occur most commonly among football, hockey, soccer and tennis players. However, weekend warriors and athletes making extreme and repeated twisting-and-turning movements are also susceptible.

The initial treatment of a sports hernia is usually conservative in hopes that the symptoms will resolve. Resting from activity, anti-inflammatory medications, ice treatments, and physical therapy can all be utilized in an effort to alleviate the patient’s symptoms. If these measures do not relieve the symptoms, surgery may be needed to repair the weakened area of the abdominal wall. Most athletes are able to return to their activity after surgery and rehabilitation.

Other, more common, hernias occur when part of an organ (usually the intestines) bulges through a weak point or tear in the thin muscular wall of the abdomen. There are several types of hernias, based on where they occur:

  • Inguinal hernia appears as a bulge in the groin or scrotum. This type is more common in men than women.
  • Femoral hernia appears as a bulge in the upper thigh. This type is more common in women than in men.
  • Incisional hernia can occur through a scar if you had abdominal surgery.
  • Umbilical hernia appears as a bulge around the belly button. It occurs when the muscle around the navel doesn’t close completely.
  • Hiatal hernia occurs in the diaphragm and allows the upper part of the stomach to move up into the chest.

In general, hernias can affect men, women and children. A combination of muscle weakness and straining, such as with heavy lifting, might contribute. Some people are born with weak abdominal muscles and may be more likely to get a hernia.

You can attempt to prevent these types of hernias by:

  • using proper lifting techniques
  • losing weight if needed
  • avoiding constipation by eating plenty of fiber
  • drinking lots of water
  • going to the bathroom as soon as you have the urge
  • exercising regularly, with focus on strengthening the abdominal muscles. 
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If you suspect you have a hernia, it is most commonly not a sports hernia! But, be sure to get examined by your physician in any case.


Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.

About this blog

Whether you are a weekend warrior, an aging baby boomer, a student athlete or just someone who wants to stay active, this blog is for you. Read about our growing list of expert contributors here.

Kelly O'Shea Sports Medicine & Fitness Editor, Philly.com
Robert Cabry, M.D. Team Physician for U.S. Figure Skating, Assoc. Team Physician for Drexel; Drexel Sports Medicine
Brian Cammarota, MEd, ATC, CSCS, CES Partner at Symetrix Sports Performance
Desirea D. Caucci, PT, DPT, OCS Co-owner of Conshohocken Physical Therapy, Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Michael G. Ciccotti, M.D. Head Team Physician for Phillies & St. Joe's; Rothman Institute
Julie Coté, PT, MPT, OCS, COMT Magee Rehabilitation Hospital
Peter F. DeLuca, M.D. Head Team Physician for Eagles, Head Orthopedic Surgeon for Flyers; Rothman Institute
Joel H. Fish, Ph.D. Director of The Center For Sport Psychology; Sports Psychology Consultant for 76ers & Flyers
R. Robert Franks, D.O. Team Physician for USA Wrestling, Consultant for Phillies; Rothman Institute
Ashley B. Greenblatt, ACE-CPT Certified Personal Trainer, The Sporting Club at The Bellevue
Eugene Hong, MD, CAQSM, FAAFP Team Physician for Drexel, Philadelphia Univ., Saint Joe’s, & U.S. National Women’s Lacrosse
Julia Mayberry, M.D. Attending Hand & Upper Extremity Surgeon, Main Line Hand Surgery P.C.
Jim McCrossin, ATC Strength and Conditioning Coach, Flyers and Phantoms
Kevin Miller Fitness Coach, Philadelphia Union
Heather Moore, PT, DPT, CKTP Owner of Total Performance Physical Therapy, North Wales, Pa.
David Rubenstein, M.D. Team Orthopedist for 76ers; Main Line Health Lankenau Medical Center
Robert Senior Event coverage, Sports Doc contributor
Justin Shaginaw, MPT, ATC Athletic Trainer for US Soccer Federation; Aria 3B Orthopaedic Institute
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