Hernias in Athletes and Active Individuals


Statistics show a correlation between physical activities and hernia incidence rates. Having a hernia can be painful and intimidating, even more so if your job is dependent on you being physically active. We at Valley Surgical RGV understand these concerns and are experienced in providing quality hernia treatment.

Physical Activity and Health

Physical activity is a worthwhile effort that offers many benefits. Some documented benefits include reduced neuroinflammation, reduced cardiovascular disease, improved lung health, reduced depression, and weight management. Some individuals choose to exercise solely to receive these benefits. Other individuals exercise because they are athletes, which is essential for their sport.

While the benefits of physical activity are numerous and well-documented, there are also some potential risks. These potential risks increase as the frequency and intensity of physical exercise increases. One of these potential risks is hernias. The term hernia refers to an internal organ pushing through a muscle wall. There are many types of hernias with specific names that depend on the organ involved and the hernia’s location.

Unfortunately, increased physical activity can put athletes and fitness enthusiasts at an increased risk of experiencing hernias. It happens often enough that the terms “sports hernia” and “athletic pubalgia” are used in medical settings. Moreover, males are more likely to experience hernias, and soccer players experience them at the highest recorded incidence rate.

While the factors contributing to this increased risk are not fully understood, it is believed that unevenly developed muscles can create weak points in the muscle wall. Additionally, the overall increased stress on the body may strain the organs.

What Should Be Done?

This does not mean that people should stop exercising. There is evidence that exercising even prior to a hernia operation improves the surgical outcome. It does mean that exercise should be performed safely and with proper technique. Using improper form, especially when doing activities such as weight-lifting, can lead to hernia formation or worse injury. It also means that individuals who exercise should always listen to their bodies. If an individual is experiencing pain, they should always have it evaluated by a medical professional. Some hernias are visible externally as bulges, but not all can be seen.

Hernias are fairly common and are usually not severe. However, they do need to be evaluated and treated. Sometimes, organs slip in and out of the muscle wall freely. In other cases, the organ can get stuck or incarcerated, partially through the muscle wall. This requires immediate attention because the blood flow to the organ can be disrupted. Other less severe symptoms of hernias include muscle discomfort, acid reflux, or pressure.

If these symptoms are noted, a medical professional can determine if a hernia is present, the location and severity, and a treatment plan. Hernias often require intervention. In less severe cases, undergoing surgery immediately may not be necessary. However, it is unlikely that a hernia will resolve itself in the long term without intervention. They tend to get progressively worse over time. In more severe cases, such as incarceration, an operation will be needed immediately to reduce and repair damage.

What Does Hernia Surgery Involve?

We understand that the idea of being operated on is intimidating for anyone. Given that hernias are common and we have been treating them for years, we have performed hernia repair many times. In addition to our surgeons being experts at various hernia repairs, our team understands the nuances of preoperative and postoperative care from a comprehensive standpoint.

While there is a wide variety of hernia surgeries, they all fall into one of two categories. They will either fall under the umbrella of open or laparoscopic hernia repair. Open hernia repair used to be the standard. This type involves a larger incision directly over the hernia site. The surgeon will push the affected organ back into its proper position through this opening. Sometimes, the surgeon will determine that mesh is needed to keep the organ from protruding again. They will then use stitches to close the site.

For laparoscopic hernia repair, the incision site is usually significantly smaller. Rather than opening enough to see the whole site, a smaller incision will be made over the hernia. The surgeon will insert a small camera and use specialized tools to return the organ to its correct position. Even through the small opening, a surgeon can install mesh if needed. The advantage of this option is that a smaller site reduces infection risk and recovery time. It is the new default method in all cases that allow it.

The recovery time required after hernia repair varies significantly from case to case, depending on the location and severity of the hernia. We understand that many of our patients need to be physically active as soon as possible. We will tailor and communicate the operative and recovery plan to each patient. If you suspect you are experiencing a hernia, contact Valley Surgical RGV’s dedicated team today for an evaluation.

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