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Sports hernia treatment

Expert treatment for sports hernias, helping you get back playing the sport you love

Surgeons operate as part of a sports hernia treatment plan
A sports hernia (also called athletic pubalgia) is a painful soft tissue injury that occurs in your groin area. This can be a torn muscle, tendon, or ligament in your lower tummy. Unlike a regular hernia, the affected tissue in a sports hernia is torn, but does not bulge in the same way.

A sports hernia is caused by repetitive or abrupt motions during sports, such as the twisting of your pelvis during a game of football or rugby. If left untreated, a sports hernia can become an inguinal hernia, which occurs when your abdominal organs press against the weakened soft tissues, sometimes forming a visible bulge.

A range of treatment options are available for sports hernas, including non-surgical and surgical approaches. We explore these treatment options in more detail below.

Sports hernias are usually treated with surgery by a consultant general surgeon, who specialises in surgery on the gastrointestinal tract and organs within your abdomen. A sports hernia can also be treated by orthopaedic consultants, who specialise in the treatment of problems with your bones and joints as well as sports injuries and other trauma medicine.

At Circle Health Group, we have a large network of consultants who can perform your sports hernia treatment and help restore your health. Call one of our friendly advisors or book an appointment online to get started on your treatment journey.

If you have a sports hernia, you will likely experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Severe pain during the moment of your injury or just after
  • Pain when twisting, kicking, sprinting, or sitting up
  • Pain in your groin when you sneeze or cough
  • Pain that goes away with rest, but returns when you play sport

Sometimes, these symptoms can be managed with a combination of over-the-counter painkillers, rest, and heat therapy (ice packs or heat pads to numb the area and relax your muscles). In other cases, you might need surgery to repair the tear in your groin. At Circle Health Group, we offer a variety of treatment options for a sports hernia.

The price of your treatment depends on which hospital you choose, and the kind of treatment you have for your sports hernia.

Our fixed-price packages include the cost of your treatment and all appropriate aftercare appointments. However, any initial diagnostic tests and your consultant's outpatient appointment consultation fee are charged separately. This will all be explained to you at the time and you'll be given prices for everything before you book.

Our flexible payment options help you spread the cost of your payment across a time period that suits you. We offer fixed-term monthly payment plans over one to five years with no deposit required. If you decide to pay over 10 months, you will pay interest-free. If you are paying for a longer period, you will pay 14.9% APR.

If you have private health insurance, sports hernia treatment will usually be covered by your provider. Speak to your insurer directly to find out.

Your consultant will begin by asking for a detailed medical history, before performing a physical examination of your tummy. They will gently press on your tummy to check for pain and tenderness in your groin area. They might also ask you to do a series of sit-ups, which will be painful if you have a sports hernia.

Your doctor might also arrange for you to have a CT or MRI scan to look inside your tummy (these scans can diagnose a sports hernia).

If your consultant confirms you have a sports hernia, they will discuss your treatment options with you, and advise which would be the best treatment for you.

Your consultant will give you a good idea of timelines for treatment during your initial consultation, after which they'll put together a fixed-price treatment package based on everything you have discussed together. Once you've agreed to the costs, we can get you booked in to have your treatment at a time that suits you.

The type of treatment your consultant recommends will depend on the severity of the sports hernia, as well as other factors such as your age and overall fitness levels. You might be recommended non-surgical treatment initially to manage your symptoms.

Non-surgical methods to treat a sports hernia include:

Physiotherapy

Your physiotherapist will build a specialist programme designed to strengthen the muscles around your injury, reduce the pain and swelling in your groin, and improve your mobility. Our hospitals are equipped with advanced equipment to help you recover as quickly as possible.

Injection therapy

There are many kinds of injections used to treat sports hernias, including nerve blocking injections and steroid injections. This treatment involves injections of steroid medication (corticosteroid) into your injury. This can effectively reduce pain and inflammation and may be recommended if you can't take oral anti-inflammatories for any reason.

Your consultant will explain whether you need physiotherapy, steroid injection medication, or a combination to treat your sports hernia.

If you have a severe tear, you will need surgery to repair the damage to your groin. Like many surgeries, this can be performed as traditional open surgery, or through an endoscopic procedure.

Endoscopic sports hernia repair surgery

During this kind of surgery, your consultant will make a few small incisions across your groin. They will then insert a small, flexible tube with a camera and light attached to it, called an endoscope, into one of these incisions. This endoscope is connected to a monitor that your consultant can refer to as they perform the procedure. They will insert a series of specialist instruments through the incisions, with which they will treat the damage to your tendon. In some cases, they will reattach fully ruptured ligaments, or use a synthetic mesh to repair the damaged tissue.

Once your hernia has been repaired, the incisions will be closed with dissolvable stitches, which will not need to be removed by your consultant in a follow-up appointment, because they dissolve naturally within a week or two.

You will be under general anaesthesia for the procedure, meaning you will not be awake during it. It takes up to 90 minutes to perform this operation.

Open sports hernia repair surgery

You might have to have open surgery if you have a severe tear. During this procedure, they will make one large incision in the middle of your abdomen and repair the damage caused by the sports hernia from there. It will also be under general anaesthesia and could take slightly longer than 90 minutes.

You might be asked to avoid food and drink for up to 12 hours before having sports hernia surgery. If you're taking blood-thinning medication, you might be asked to stop taking it for a few days before the procedure. This is to prevent excessive bleeding during the operation. You might also be advised to stop smoking (if applicable) during the lead-up to having surgery.

Your healthcare team will ensure you know exactly how to prepare for your surgery, so there won't be any unanswered questions along the way. If you do need to stop smoking for a short period before surgery, they will offer advice and support on how best to do this, as well as how to maintain your overall health and wellbeing in the run-up to surgery.

You should be able to return home the day or day after surgery.

You won't be able to drive yourself home, because of the effects of the anaesthesia. So, you should arrange for a friend or family member to collect you from hospital. If you would prefer, we can arrange for a taxi to take you, but it's important to have someone help you when you first get home.

Recovering at home

You will probably experience some pain after surgery while you heal, but this can be managed with traditional painkillers and usually goes away within two weeks. You might also feel rather tired for a while. It's normal to have some bruising in your groin area where the hernia was.

It's common to be constipated after hernia surgery, so you should make sure to drink lots of fluids and eat a diet rich in fibre.

Your consultant will tell you what to expect from your recovery, including when you can go back to your normal activities. Many people can return to work after just a few days, but everyone is different. Your consultant will provide your tailored advice on how to recover safely at home, including how to wash your wound, when to rest, and how to eat properly to avoid constipation.

2-6 weeks after surgery

After two weeks you should feel well enough to get back to all your usual activities, including light exercise such as swimming and walking.

You might need to avoid more strenuous activities and contact sports until six weeks after surgery, but your consultant will give you a more detailed timeframe based on your individual circumstances.

Usually, the full recovery time from sports hernia repair surgery is about six weeks, though it can be sooner after keyhole surgery. Your consultant will offer you a recovery timeline based on your needs.

As with any surgery, there are possible risks with having sports hernia repair surgery, including a wound infection. However, if you do suffer an infection, this can be treated with antibiotics.

There is a low risk of developing a blood clot after sports hernia repair surgery. But your consultant might give you blood thinners to further minimise this risk. Some people experience severe bruising, but this should resolve with time.

Other potential side effects of sports hernia surgery include:

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Unsightly scars
  • Blood clots
  • Difficulty passing urine or emptying your bladder

We answer some of your most commonly asked questions about sports hernia treatment.

Can a sports hernia cause back pain?

Yes, don't worry if you experience back pain with a sports hernia. The pain caused by a sports hernia can radiate to your backs, hips, and legs. This can be because the nerves surrounding the affected area in your groin become irritated.

Can a sports hernia heal on its own?

A groin strain will probably heal on its own, but a sports hernia does not usually heal on its own. They typically require non-surgical treatment or surgery.

Can I run with a sports hernia?

There are certain strenuous activities and sports you should avoid with a sports hernia. We recommend being treated first and following the advice of your consultant and physiotherapist before returning to running and sport - especially after surgery.

Can a sports hernia cause testicular pain?

Yes, as mentioned above, the pain from a sports hernia can radiate to other parts of your body - this includes your genitals.

When you choose to go private with Circle Health Group, you can expect:

  • Flexible appointment times to fit your schedule
  • The freedom to choose your hospital and your consultant
  • Bespoke, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Private ensuite rooms as standard
  • Tasty and nutritious meals cooked onsite to your dietary requirements
  • Support from the same compassionate clinical team from beginning to end
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help spread the cost of your care

If you want to know more about sports hernia treatment and get advice on the right treatment for you, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in April 2023. Next review due April 2026.

  1. Johns Hopkins Medicine, sports hernia
  2. The National Library of Medicine, sports hernia: the review of current diagnosis
  3. British Journal of Medical Practice, sports hernia: a clinical update
  4. Cleveland Clinic, sports hernia symptoms

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