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Sports Hernia

Learn the Signs and Symptoms


Updated May 19, 2014

Male tennis player serving ball, overhead view
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Sports Hernia vs. Inguinal Hernia

The typical sports hernia occurs when the muscle layer of abdominal wall in one specific area becomes thin relative to the other areas. This may result in a tear or strain in one of the abdominal muscles or the fascia of the abdominal wall. When that happens, the underlying internal organs, particularly the intestines, push up against the muscular wall and can cause significant pain.

An inguinal hernia, however, results from a weakening and separation of the muscles, causing the internal organs to actually push through and create a visible bulge in the lower abdomen or groin.

Symptoms of a Sports Hernia

A sports hernia rarely causes any visible bulge in the muscle wall, so it is often overlooked for some time before it is diagnosed. The most common symptom of a sports hernia is a dull, aching pain in the lower abdomen or groin that gradually increases in severity.

This pain generally increases with exercise or activities such as running or weight lifting.

Symptoms of a Hernia in Women

The symptoms of hernia in women are far more subtle than in men and as a result, women can suffer a long time before getting the right diagnosis. Read more about hernias in women.

Risk Factors for a Sports Hernia

its Sports hernias, which are far less common than inguinal hernias, are generally associated with the forceful, high-intensity, repeated twisting movements required in many sports, especially professional level football, soccer, tennis and hockey.

Diagnosis of a Sports Hernia

If you suspect a sports hernia, the first step is to see your physician for a medical history and physical examination. In some cases, your physician can order an MRI to confirm the diagnosis.

Treating a Sports Hernia

Initial therapies include reducing activities that aggravate the condition and applying ice to the affected area. Pain relieving anti-inflammatory medications can also help reduce symptoms.

If symptoms continue or return, surgery is generally the next treatment option. Hernia surgery

Most athletes heal from surgery within six to eight weeks and can resume their regular sports activity without any complications.


Anderson, K, et al. Hip and Groin Injuries in Athletes. Am J of Sports Med, Jul 2001; 29: 521 - 533.

Farber AJ, Wilckens JH. Sports hernia: diagnosis and therapeutic approach. http://www.jaaos.org/cgi/content/full/15/8/507. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2007 Aug;15(8):507-14.Click here to read

Mayo Clinic Medical Edge, Sports Hernias Best Treated With Inactivity. www.mayoclinic.org/medical-edge-newspaper-2006/jan-16.html. Jan. 16, 2006.

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