Sportsman's hernia

Definition

A Sportsmans hernia is a condition characterised by chronic groin pain. There is no definable hernia identified with a rupture of muscles or tendons in the inguinal canal often attributed to the cause of the condition. Many professional footballers have had treatment for this condition.

Who commonly presents with it?

As the case suggests, young athletes commonly present with this pain. It is especially common among football, hockey and rugby players, with a twisting action causing particular strain and discomfort. Simple walking does not usually bring the pain on, but excessive straining or stretching does exacerbate the symptoms. Various scans have been used to try and diagnose this condition, MR scans are often performed to try and detect a possible hernia or muscle rupture.

How does it present?

Sportsman hernia presents with persistent groin pain. Physical activity makes the pain worse, with rest recommended. There is usually no hernia associated with this condition.

What can be done?

The chronic groin pain requires treatment by a multidisciplinary team. Rest and physiotherapy are recommended initially with local anaesthetic and steroid injections offered as the first line treatment. Surgery is rarely contemplated but may be necessary for severe on-going pain after all other treatments have failed. The surgery requires the main 'conjoint' tendon to be released and reconstructed coupled with a tension-free mesh placement, to strengthen the repair. The surgery is combined with a careful follow up and physiotherapy program.

How long will your recovery take?

Recovery does not take long, with most patients being discharged within 24 hours of surgery. Complete recovery is based on individual needs and fitness of the patient. Patients are encouraged to start mobilising immediately after surgery and refrain from lifting heavy objects for at least one month. A return to full sporting activities is expected within 4 weeks.

What are the main risks of surgery?

Your surgeon will advise on any specific complications and risks. For all types of surgery there is always a risk of wound infection and a 1-2% risk of recurrence of the hernia.