Why Are Sports Hernias (Inguinal Disruptions) So Darn Difficult to Diagnose?
If you have severe groin pain, you’ve probably heard all of the possibilities by now… it is a sprain, a ligament tear or hyper-extension. One you might not have heard yet? Inguinal disruption. Otherwise known as a sports hernia. They are far more common than athletes and many doctors think, and they are difficult to diagnosis much to the dismay of those suffering from one. Sports hernias may cause a variety of symptoms including pain in the lower abdomen or groin, sharp pain when stretching or engaged in sports activity, bruising and even the inability to go about training and everyday life.
Simply put, sports hernias are not diagnosed very often. Not because they are rare, but more so because they do not present as a typical hernia. The first obstacle to obtaining a correct diagnosis is the athlete himself. Although there is usually a fair amount of pain upon injury, it generally subsides with rest, making it feel as though the injury wasn’t serious at all. This in turn allows the patient to believe that a trip to the doctor is not necessary. The pain comes back a few days later even stronger, which indicates that an appointment is needed.
Unfortunately, the symptoms caused by a sports hernia can be quite vague and hard to distinguish from other possible diagnoses. For example, one characteristic of a sports hernia, lower abdomen pain, can be indicative of several possible maladies: kidney stones, intestinal obstruction or even irritable bowel syndrome. Unfortunately, sports hernias are at the bottom of a doctor’s list of possibilities. The patient is given directives to rest, etc., but when activity resumes so does the pain.
Every sports hernia case is different. While a bulge in the injured area is a good indicator that a sports hernia exists, one may not always be present, especially in women. The pain caused by such an injury is not consistent with a cycle that recurs with rest and resuming activity. This can make the pain hard to describe, complicating a possible correct diagnosis. The large area that can be affected also can cause symptoms to be confusing and the pain hard to pinpoint.
While regular x-rays may be ordered, a normal x-ray won’t do the trick. A doctor may reach for several other possible diagnoses in this situation without ever seeing the underlying injuries due to the nature of x-rays to show only bone. Usually, it takes an MRI to be able to clearly see muscle and ligament tears, as in the case of sports hernias. Even with a clear image, it can be hard for those not familiar with the injury to diagnose a sports hernia.
With the difficulty of diagnosing sports hernias, it is important to mention to your physician that you think it may be a possibility. You could be saving yourself countless expensive visits, needless tests and frustrating detours on your road to recovery.