Understanding the difference between a sports hernia and a regular hernia

Did you know a sports hernia and a regular hernia are two different things? While both can be extremely painful or uncomfortable, there are slight differences between them, as our expert bowel surgeon can explain. Here, we’ll look at how the two conditions compare and the differences between them.

What are sports hernias and regular hernias?

Regular hernias occur when part of an organ displaces and protrudes through its cavity wall. They usually develop between the hips and the chest and the lump can usually be felt underneath the skin. There are different types of regular hernias, but a lump is the most distinguishing feature of all of them.

Sports hernias, on the other hand, aren’t actually lumps. In fact, they aren’t even classified as real hernias. Instead, they occur when there is a soft tissue injury within the groin which is causing significant pain. They are common in athletes who partake in sports which require sudden directional changes or severe twisting motions. It is possible for a sports hernia to turn into a regular hernia, but largely they are a tear or strain of the soft tissue, rather than a lump.

Within the medical industry, sports hernias are mostly referred to as athletic pubalgia due to the fact that they aren’t actual hernias.

How do the symptoms differ?

You can establish which type of hernia you are suffering with by paying attention to the symptoms. A regular hernia will always present a lump or bulge within the affected area. There will also be pain or discomfort felt in the area, particularly when lifting, bending over or coughing. A feeling of weakness, heaviness or pressure within the abdomen, along with a gurgling, aching or burning sensation are also common symptoms.

With a sports hernia, you will feel pain within the groin when the injury occurs. However, the pain will typically lessen the more that you rest. If you try to return to sports activity, the pain will usually reoccur. If it isn’t treated, there is the possibility it could lead to debilitating, chronic pain.

How are they treated?

There are differences between how regular hernias and sports hernias are treated. With regular hernias, they rarely tend to go away by themselves (although it is possible). This means patients will usually require surgery to correct the problem.

With sports hernias, non-surgical treatments tend to be the most effective way to treat them. First, you’ll be required to rest for up to ten days. Then, you’ll start physical therapy to try and improve strength and flexibility within the inner thigh muscle and abdominals. You may be provided anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain and swelling, or a cortisone injection if the symptoms persist for a long period of time. It usually takes 4-7 weeks of physical therapy before the sports hernia is resolved.

There is the possibility that physical therapy alone won’t repair a sports hernia. So, in some cases surgery may be required.

As you can see, there are differences between sports hernias and regular hernias, which is why correct diagnosis by a bowel surgeon is a must to ensure appropriate treatment is offered.


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