A sports hernia is a soft tissue injury in the groin area. It requires proper treatment to prevent complications and ensure a speedy return to athletics.

A sports hernia is an injury affecting athletes who play high intensity sports. It usually occurs during strenuous activities involving twisting, quick changes of direction, and sudden forceful movements.

Although a sports hernia typically isn’t serious, getting treatment can prevent chronic pain and long-term complications.

Continue reading to learn more about the symptoms, treatment options, and recovery timeline for sports hernias.

Despite the name, a sports hernia is not a hernia, which involves an internal organ pushing through an opening in the surrounding muscle or connective tissue.

Instead, a sports hernia is a strain or tear of the soft tissues in the groin area. “Athletic pubalgia” and “groin pain syndrome” are other terms for this injury.

To identify a sports hernia, look for signs such as pain and discomfort in the lower abdomen and groin area that may spread toward the perineum and upper inner thigh region.

These symptoms can appear suddenly or gradually and will likely worsen during physical activity, especially movements involving twisting, kicking, and sudden changes in direction.

Usually, the pain subsides with rest. Performing a resisted sit-up or forcefully coughing or sneezing may reproduce pain in the lower abdomen and groin area.

Several at-home treatment options for a sports hernia can help relieve symptoms and promote healing.

Home treatments for a sports hernia include:

  • Rest: Rest is the most crucial step. Avoid activities that may worsen the pain, such as running, jumping, or twisting.
  • Medication: Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen to help relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Ice: Apply an ice pack to the affected area for 20 minutes several times a day to help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Compression: Wrap the affected area with a compression bandage or wear a compression garment. Compression can help reduce swelling and provide support if you have a bulge in the groin.
  • Physical therapy: After 2 weeks of rest, you can start physical therapy exercises to build strength, mobility, and flexibility in the affected area.

Typically, 4 to 6 weeks of physical therapy can relieve pain and allow you to resume athletic activities. However, if the pain persists or returns, surgery may be necessary.

If you’re experiencing persistent pain in the groin or lower abdominal area despite rest and home treatments, consult a healthcare professional to determine if you have a sports hernia.

During your appointment, a healthcare professional will ask about your symptoms and to know the circumstances of your injury. They will perform a physical exam to look for pain in the groin and abdominal area. Often, it may not be possible to identify a sports hernia during a physical examination.

During the physical assessment, your clinician may have you perform a sit-up or trunk flexion against resistance. Pain or discomfort during these movements is a sign of a sports hernia.

Your healthcare professional may order X-rays or MRI scans to confirm a diagnosis. They may order bone scans or additional tests to rule out other underlying causes. After a diagnosis, they can recommend appropriate treatment options.

Surgery options to repair the groin tissues include a traditional open surgery involving a single long incision or a minimally invasive endoscopic procedure using a small camera to view the abdomen.

When damage to the inguinal nerve in the groin is causing pain, it may be necessary to perform an inguinal neurectomy to remove the nerve.

Following surgery, your clinician will create a recovery program to restore strength and endurance. Usually, you’ll be able to resume athletic activity within 6 to 12 weeks.

If inner thigh pain persists after surgery, your surgeon may recommend an additional surgery called adductor tenotomy.

The recovery timeline for a sports hernia typically involves 2 weeks of rest, allowing the soft tissues in the groin area to heal, followed by 4 to 6 weeks of physical therapy to build strength, mobility, and flexibility.

After physical therapy, you can usually resume sports.

Recovery from surgery may take several weeks, but you can likely return to athletic activities within 12 weeks. The chances of recurrence following surgery are generally low.

With appropriate treatment, the outlook for people with a sports hernia is usually positive.

A combination of rest and rehabilitation, including active exercises, can help you resume your previous activity level and prevent recurrence and long-term complications.

What’s the difference between a sports hernia and an inguinal hernia?

While a sports hernia and an inguinal hernia are painful conditions affecting the groin, their causes and symptoms differ.

A sports hernia is a tear in the soft tissue of the groin region, usually due to athletic movements.

An inguinal hernia occurs when abdominal tissue protrudes through a weak spot in the abdominal wall, causing swelling and a visible bulge.

What causes a sports hernia?

Athletic activities involving running, kicking, and sudden changes in direction usually cause a sports hernia.

These movements can tear or strain the soft tissues in the lower abdomen or groin region, resulting in a sports hernia.

The condition can develop gradually from chronic overuse or occur suddenly due to forceful movements.

How long does it take to heal from a sports hernia?

The healing time for a sports hernia depends on the severity of the injury and the treatment approach. Generally, mild cases can heal within 8 weeks with proper rest and physical therapy.

However, cases more severe or requiring surgery may take longer to heal, with recovery typically taking around 6 to 12 weeks.

A sports hernia is a soft tissue injury affecting the lower abdominals and groin region. Usually, it occurs in athletes who play sports involving running, kicking, and sudden movements, including hockey, soccer, and football.

Early diagnosis and proper treatment, ranging from rest and physical therapy to surgery for severe cases, can help improve outcomes and prevent complications. Usually, you can fully recover and return to usual activities with proper treatment and rehabilitation.