Intense Groin Pain: Is it a Sports Hernia, Groin Strain or Groin Pull?

sports hernia, groin pull or groin strainThis question doesn’t only baffle athletes sidelined with excruciating groin pain, but it’s also one of the hottest topics in sports injuries lately. And it is no wonder considering how often sports hernias are misdiagnosed as pulled groins, plus the fact that sports hernias do not fall under the true definition of a hernia. Add to this the lack of experience most general practitioners and even sports injury specialists have with sports hernias and coming to a definitive answer becomes frustrating for many.

Let’s start with some background…

You see, run of the mill hernias involve a muscle tear or dislocation, which presents a noticeable bulge. The bulge is the tell tale sign so to speak. On the other hand, sports hernias have no bulge, requiring other ways of detection such as an MRI. What that means is that sports hernias can go undiagnosed for months, sometimes years.

Here’s how you can help determine the cause of your groin pain and get back to life as usual without the long wait time associated with mistreatment and misdiagnosis that some athletes endure.

Athletes have a tendency to assume they’ve pulled a groin muscle at the first sign of abdominal pain. The pain occurs in the groin and or the inner thigh, when the knees are lifted or the legs moved together. A snap or pop could have been felt at the time of injury with acute pain immediately following.

If it truly is a pulled groin, pain will subside and the injury will heal with conservative (routine) treatment. That means icing to reduce pain and swelling, wrapping the thigh with a compression bandage, taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) and eventually rebuilding muscle strength with conditioning exercises. A true pulled groin should respond to these measures though it can take anywhere from days and weeks to months to fully heal.

When the pain returns at the same intensity as pre-injury once normal activity is resumed, it could be a sports hernia. More often than not surgery is required for repair before healing can begin. Unfortunately, months could go by before realizing the sports hernia won’t respond to treatment for a pulled groin.

A sports hernia is easily confused with a pulled groin so treating it as such stands to reason. However, a clear indicator that it’s time to consult a sports hernia specialist is when it doesn’t respond to traditional treatment (ice, compression, OTC anti-inflammatory). Ideally, don’t wait past that point as this only delays getting back to your regular routine.