A sports hernia is not a true hernia, but rather an injury to the ligaments, muscles, or tendons in the lower abdomen or groin, where abdominal wall hernias are usually found. Athletes who engage in soccer, football, wrestling, and ice hockey are most prone for sports hernias because these sports involve planting the feet and twisting with great strength, and may involve kicking, changing direction quickly, and pivoting.
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A sports hernia is actually not a hernia at all. It was initially called that because it caused groin pain in athletes, but there is no bulging in the groin as in regular hernias. The more correct term is Athletic Pubalgia, which means ‘pain from the pubic bone'. This term is used to describe a few problems. There can be inflammation or degeneration of the pubic joint, inflammation or swelling of the pubic bone, or degeneration or tearing of the abdominal or groin muscles where they attach to the pubic bone.
This is most common in sports that involve directional changes, especially to the side like hockey, soccer and football. Its cause is related to shear forces along the pubic joint, muscle strength differences, and, often, overuse.
Initial treatment involves a trial of rest, anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy. Beyond this Athletic Pubalgia can be difficult to treat. A variety of injections are being tried and there are a few surgeons in the country that will treat this in the operating room. For this reason, it is important to be seen by a sports medicine doctor early, rather than late.