The Dancer’s Guide to Sports Hernias

Ballerina sports herniaOn the surface, one could not find two athletic polar opposites than ice hockey players and dancers. Looking closer however, they share several commonalities in the way they move and strain their torso and groin areas. These movements can cause inguinal disruptions (sports hernias), which is why both hockey players and dancers are prone to this debilitating injury.  Indeed, dancers can get sports hernias, just like other athletic professionals.

The similarities don’t end there. Like other athletes, dancers often report that intense pain returns after a few days of rest. Pain is treated as a sprain. The cycle of rest, dance, pain, rest, dance, pain repeats, and the dancer eventually seeks a medical evaluation. Sports hernia dance patients report that the pain is deep and that it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact source. Applying pressure externally, and even coughing, does not recreate the pain.

The physician most likely orders an ordinary MRI, instead of the type specifically designed to detect inguinal disruptions. The results are inconclusive and show no evidence of a sports hernia. Sports hernias do not present like other hernias because there is no discernible bulge in the muscle. At this point, the dancer is misdiagnosed with a run-of-the-mill groin pull, or worse, undiagnosed and told to rest and return slowly to a regular dance routine.

Like many athletes, the dancer is forced to quit dancing due to the pain and the recurring cycle of thinking the injury has healed, only to find it comes back once activity resumes. It’s frustrating to say the least and tragic when it impacts a young dancer’s passion and future career.

Finding a doctor experienced in diagnosing and treating sports hernias can mean the difference between years (yes, years) of dealing with pain and getting back on your toes again. The best place to start your search is to go where the pros go. Start with your local hockey team. Sports hernias are very common in hockey players. To whom do they trust their players’ sports hernia repair? Contact that doctor to make an appointment. Dr. William Brown assesses, diagnoses and repairs sports hernias for the San Jose Sharks. He’s also treated dancers, especially in the ballet genre.

Be leery of recommendations that involve mesh repair surgery. The open repair procedure is a far better alternative in the majority of cases because it allows for repairing the muscles and nerve and tendon evaluation, unlike mesh.