The term "sports hernia" is used to describe a condition characterized by groin pain, often in an athlete, in which there is no demonstrable hernia. The term is a misnomer because there is typically no true hernia or defect in the groin or abdominal wall.
A variety of other terms have been used interchangeably to describe this condition including "sportsman's hernia", "hockey groin", and "athletic pubalgia". Over the last decade this condition has become more commonly described as several well-known professional athletes have undergone surgical treatment of this condition.
Sports hernia was described initially in Europe, but has become a common diagnosis in high intensity athletes in the United States as well. It is not confined to professional athletes, however, and has been described in youths, college and recreational athletes.
The diagnosis and treatment of sports hernia will be discussed here. True groin hernias are discussed separately (see "Classification, clinical features and diagnosis of inguinal and femoral hernias in adults" and "Overview of treatment for inguinal and femoral hernias").
The basic definition of sports hernia is any condition causing persistent unilateral pain in the groin without demonstrable hernia. Sports hernia, therefore, is a clinical diagnosis. Inguinal hernia is clinically absent, but in virtually all reported series a small number of occult hernias are identified at the time of surgical exploration.