At Range of Motion Physical Therapy Lucan I work with a number of different sports clubs and teams, such as GAA, Rugby and athletics. As a result I see a number of athletes with what appears to be a sports hernia!!

Below I outline what is a sports hernia, the symptoms and what is the best course of action should you suspect you have a sports hernia.

What is a Sports hernia?

A sports hernia occurs when there is a weakening of the muscles or tendons of the lower abdominal wall. This part of the abdomen is the same region where an inguinal hernia occurs, called the inguinal canal. When an inguinal hernia occurs there is sufficient weakening of the abdominal wall to allow a pouch, the hernia, to be felt. In the case of a sports hernia, the problem is due to a weakening in the same abdominal wall muscles, but there is no palpable hernia. This can make a sports hernia difficult to diagnose.

The problem with the abdominal wall in people with a sports hernia is not a muscle strength issue. It is more of a muscle imbalance issue between abdominal muscles and leg muscles inserting on the pubic bone. As you can image leg muscles are relatively more powerful than the core muscles, it is this imbalance along with participating in certain sports can contribute to sports the hernia forming.

What are the symptoms of a sports hernia?
A sports hernia typically begins with a slow onset of aching pain in the lower abdominal region. Symptoms may include:

Pain in the lower abdomen
Pain in the groin
Pain in the testicle (in males)
The symptoms are exacerbated with activities such as running, changing direction, and bending forward. Clients may also have increased symptoms when coughing or sneezing, it is important not to ignore these symptoms as the hernia can become worse. Sports hernias are found in many types of athletes such as GAA, Rugby and soccer players.

How is a sports hernia diagnosed?
As I mentioned earlier, diagnosis of a sports hernia can be difficult in the early stages. A sports hernia is determined based on the combination of the clients history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests. MRI scans have also become more common in looking for signs of a sports hernia.

What is the treatment of a sports hernia?
The initial treatment of a sports hernia is always conservative in the hopes that the symptoms will resolve. The type of conservative treatment advised is a period of complete rest, followed by 4-6 weeks of physical therapy.

Physical therapy for sports hernia focuses on programme incorporating strengthening of the core muscles, while also stretching the low abdominal and lower extremity muscles and tendons.