It’s a common idea that you can give yourself a hernia by lifting something too heavy or by straining too hard during a workout. While a regular hernia is actually caused by weakened muscle tissue in your abdomen, it’s true that intense sports activity can cause something called an athletic publagia, also known as a muscle hernia or a sports hernia.
This type of hernia usually involves damage to the muscles in the pelvis or groin, or more specifically the tendons that attach those muscles. They typically happen due to fast motions that require the body to twist suddenly, such as turning quickly or changing direction in a ballgame.
When it comes to sports, there are certain activities and movements that could increase the risk of developing this condition. If you’re an avid athlete or regularly play sports, it’s a good idea to be aware of the risks so you know what to look out for and how to protect against it.
A sports hernia can happen across a range of different activities, but they’re most common in more strenuous and high-impact sports such as rugby, football, or wrestling. These sports involve a lot of rapid and sudden movement, particularly of the pelvis and legs, which can then cause injury to the ligaments attached to those areas.
It can also be a risk for skiing, running, and hurdling. These sports all make use of the muscles around the pelvis and groin, and the muscles and tendons that attach to the thighs, and are the areas where most injuries occur.
The most immediate sign that you may have an injury is usually localised pain, as well as more restricted movement. It may also be tender to the touch, or have bruising or swelling in that area. While symptoms are often immediate, you might also not feel anything noticeable until afterwards. The important thing is to stop and rest, and not play or exercise again until you’ve been examined by a medical professional – trying to play through pain could end causing more damage and making things worse in the long run.
The difference from a regular hernia (inguinal hernia) is that you won’t see a lump, ie a section of intestine or tissue poking through the muscle wall with a sports hernia.
Sports hernias are usually easier to treat so long as they’re not too severe, and rarely involve surgery. Rest and recuperation are often all that’s needed, along with pain or anti-inflammatory medication as prescribed.
The best way to reduce the risk of a sports hernia is to always stretch and warm up before exercise or playing sports, helping your muscles and ligaments to be more flexible and shock-absorbent. The other most important thing is to always stay within your limits and know what your body can handle. It can be tempting to push yourself too much in the heat of a game, but the consequences could be much more long-lasting than missing a shot or losing a match.