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Dr. Pamela Fernandes  |  3 February 2021   

What is the common thing that Khabib Nurmagomedov, Demetrious Johnson, and Aljamain Sterling have? Yup. Sports hernia. Because none of us humans have groin muscles of steel!

What Is A Sports Hernia?

A sports hernia is a painful injury in the groin area. It occurs during sports where sudden changes of direction or intense twisting movements occur. Although it may finally result in an abdominal or inguinal hernia it is slightly different from one. 

You may have also heard it being called athletic pubalgia. Sports that cause athletes to plant the feet and twist with maximum exertion can cause the ligament, tendon, and muscle to tear. Athletes in wrestling and martial arts can develop it due to the nature of their training.

The posterior wall of the inguinal canal develops weakness and gradually over time, part of the wall and the abdomen start protruding through. This is a very subtle and insidious process. An inguinal hernia is different from this in that it is primarily in the inguinal canal. Any bulge occurs in the same area, just north of the groin area.

 Over time though a sports hernia can progress to an inguinal hernia. 

They have similar symptoms like pain and swelling in the groin. It may get worse on coughing, sneezing, or straining the abdomen. The swelling might feel hot if inflamed but disappears and reappears with strain.

How to Prevent Sports Hernia?

Can athletic pubalgia be prevented? Yes. It can. However, it means watching how you train and spar in the long term. A combination of factors like muscle weakness and constant strain by heavy lifting can contribute to a sports hernia. Even tight adductors and extensor muscles can develop sports hernia. Here are some steps to prevent sports hernia.

Don’t Ignore Warm-Up

By warming up, you ensure that your muscles and tendons are ready for action and physical activity. Sudden activity causes the muscle to cramp and contract. This makes them prone to injury. Warm up also allows blood flow to all areas of muscles ensuring they have enough energy and nutrients for contraction.

Watch Your Weight

You may not realize it but minor weight changes affect your core, joints, and balance. It affects the way your muscles must work to balance your body as you move rapidly. Maintain a healthy weight to keep your alignment and balance.

Sports Hernia Strong Abs | Fighting Arts Health Lab


This is so important for those who lift weights. While you’re bulking up muscle, make sure your core can support you. Otherwise, it is going to be difficult for your hips and all the muscles attached to them to support your frame. Part of Khabib’s struggles were also his weight gain during recovery. He himself claims injuries are a major problem for him because it causes him to gain weight.

Ease The Strain

By easing the strain, we mean going to the bathroom when you have to. Drink lots of fluids and a diet rich in fiber to avoid constipation. As a result, your muscles will not have to strain when you go to the loo. Hydration will also help your muscles since it transports nutrients and regulates your temperature. Also, when you have to go, go. Don’t hold the urge to go to the bathroom and push your muscles to hold it in. Lift weights with the proper technique; wide stances and holding in your core.

Strengthen Your Core

As you exercise, strengthen the abdominal muscles. You can do so by focusing on core strengthening exercises. These exercises can increase the mobility of the hip. Strengthen the hip flexor and groin muscles eccentrically as you work out. Also, strengthen the adductor muscles and increase hip extension. 

Focus on total muscle building. For weaker muscles, the core muscles are forced to compensate. Try not to dramatically increase your training intensity or sports activity suddenly. You may think that last-minute push can you make you look like a hero but it's going to lead to a sports hernia. Promote equal strength training between both legs and abdominal muscles.

Add Balance and Flexibility

Add exercises that increase flexibility and balance. This could be pilates, tai chi, and exercises to help improve your balance and avoid sudden twists. Condition yourself well.

Sports Hernia; All Guts, No Glory

Khabib’s hernia was part of a growing number of issues. Muscle strain, escalating weight, and heavy weights. He ended up having surgery to take care of his sports hernia but your best bet is prevention. What are some training techniques you practice strengthening your core and prevent sports hernia? Tell us, we’d like to know.  

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About the author

Dr. Pamela Q. Fernandes is an author, doctor and medical writer. Born and raised in Kuwait, she graduated from Angeles University College of Medicine, Philippines in 2007. Soon after that, she started her career as a medical writer and physician. Pamela is an advocate of preventive health, rural medicine, women’s health and tele-medicine having been active in these roles for the majority of her decade long career in medicine. She an Aikido practitioner. You can find out more about her at https://www.pamelaqfernandes.com.

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