3 Exercises to Recover From a Sports Hernia

Recover from or prevent sports hernias with these moves from Dr. Matt Stevens.

A sports hernia refers to a muscle or tendon injury in your lower abdominal or groin region. It's a painful injury frequently affecting athletes in sports that require frequent changes of direction, such as football, soccer, basketball and hockey.

The term "sports hernia" is a bit misleading. Unlike a regular hernia, the intestines do not poke through the abdominal wall. Put simply, a sports hernia can be considered an injury to your core muscle.

"The oblique tissue and rectus abdominis tissue come down and insert into the pubic bone. Our big strong adductor muscles also insert into that same bone," explains Dr. Matt Stevens, physical therapist and owner of Pure Physio (Strongsville, Ohio). "So they often get into a tugging war and eventually one of them fails, and we have a tear, rupture or injury to that issue resulting in a sports hernia."

A sports hernia typically takes about 4 to 6 weeks to fully heal before you can return to your sport. Treatment begins with about two weeks of rest before physical therapy, which according to Stevens will:

1) Develop pelvic stability so your pelvis is less reliant on support tissues to maintain stability.

2) Learn to properly activate your hip flexors so the muscles that are intended to flex your hips are actually doing their job.

3) Increase core strength so your core muscles are strong enough to lock down your trunk during explosive lower-body movements.

Stevens has his clients perform three exercises that help achieve these goals to fully recover from a sports hernia. You can also use these as general prehab exercises to improve your hip and core function, and decrease your chance of sustaining a sports hernia.

Banded Hip Flexion

Exercises to Recover From a Sports Hernia

How to: Attach a resistance band to a fixed object, lie down on the ground and wrap it around your left foot. Position yourself so there's tension in the band. With your core tight and feet dorsiflexed, bend your left knee and hip until both joints are at a 90-degree angle. Slowly straighten your leg to return to the starting position.

Sets/Reps: 2-3x6-8 each leg

Physioball Dead Bug

Exercises to Recover From a Sports Hernia

How to: Lie on your back with your arms and legs straight over your shoulders and hips, respectively, and hold a physioball between your hands and feet. Keeping your core tight, simultaneously extend your left arm and right leg. Return your arm and leg to the physioball, and repeat with your opposite arm and leg. Continue alternating back and forth.

Sets/Reps: 2-3x6-8 each leg

Glute Bridge Leg Lifts

Exercises to Recover From a Sports Hernia

How to: Lie on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground positioned about hip-width apart. Place a med ball between your knees and squeeze it with your legs. Drive your hips up as if performing a Glute Bridge. Tighten your core and glutes to create stability in this position. Without moving your hips, slowly straighten your left leg before returning it to the starting position. Repeat with your opposite leg and continue alternating back and forth.

Sets/Reps: 2-3x6-8 each leg