Complicated Diagnosis Process Affects Sports Hernia Patients

There is no lack of cases in which an athlete suffers from sharp, persistent pain in the groin area that no doctor seems to be able to diagnose. Athletes are told it’s a strained muscle, a torn ligament, hyper-tension or a sprain. But one they most likely have not heard of is a sports hernia. Why? Because many doctors aren’t aware there is such a condition.

Sports hernias are much more common than many physicians believe, and they can be tricky to diagnose—but they’re real. And the pain and debilitation is real, too. This pain can affect the lower abdomen, groin, thigh, or for men, the testicles. It intensifies when playing, and can disrupt daily life.

Here are a few reasons why sports hernias can be tough to diagnose:

The Visual Aid. Sports hernias don’t present like a regular hernia. Sometimes there’s a bulge under the skin, like with a regular hernia, but oftentimes not, especially in women. The visual indicator isn’t always present.

Disappearing Pain. Pain can subside when the athlete rests. So, when the pain goes away, the athlete thinks he or she had a minor injury—meaning, skip the trip to the doctor. Unfortunately, the pain returns when the athlete plays next.

Vague Symptoms. Because sports hernia pain can feel like other types of injuries, it can be difficult for physicians to distinguish one from the other. One of the symptoms of a sports hernia is pain in the lower abdomen; however, an athlete could tell the doctor they have pain in this area, and the doctor may think, kidney stones! appendicitis! ulcers! Or some other condition marked by lower abdomen pain. Most doctors won’t immediately assume it’s a sports hernia.

Faulty Scans. CT scans, MRI scans, ultrasounds or x-rays are ordered to find the source of the pain. However, these scans won’t truly show a sports hernia. These tests can be difficult to interpret, and there’s a high false negative rate. Even an MRI—which does show the muscle and ligament tears—can be difficult for those who aren’t familiar with diagnosing sports hernias.

This elusive diagnosis is unfortunate, since a sports hernia is painful and can affect an athlete’s career and life.

So how is a sports hernia properly diagnosed?

If you think you have a sports hernia, the best thing to do is to visit a sports hernia specialist. This is the only way to be 100% sure that you’re being correctly diagnosed and receive the right treatment to get your body back to where it needs to be. An experienced sports hernia specialist, like Dr. William Brown in Fremont, California, will listen to your history and understand if a sports hernia has been triggered.

If you think you may have a sports hernia, and you’re unable to see a sports hernia specialist, at least express to your doctor that this is a condition that you think you may have.