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 surgery for this condition.

Who commonly presents with it?

Young athletes commonly present with this type of groin pain described as a 'sportsman's hernia'. 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 on the pain, but excessive straining or stretching does exacerbate the symptoms. Various scans have been used to try and diagnose this condition, magnetic (MR) scans are often performed to try and detect a possible hernia or muscle rupture.

How does it present?

Sportsman's herniae present with persistent groin pain usually associated with physical activity makes, with rest relieving the pain. 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 with 'tension-free' mesh placement, to strengthen the repair. Other surgical techniques have also been advocated for sportsman's hernia such as laparoscopic hernia repair, which has the advantages of a quicker recovery. Surgery in all cases 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 2 to 3 months.

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, a 1-2% risk of recurrence of the hernia and a 2% risk of on going pain.

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Posted 16/12/2013
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