Understanding Sports Hernia in Hockey Players

Is It A Hernia or Sports Hernia?

There are different types of hernia – inguinal and umbilical are tears in the abdominal wall that will often include a bulge where the contents of the abdominal cavity can squeeze out (kinda gross I know).

Then there is what is referred to as the sports hernia which is also a tear in the lower abdominal wall, but there is not usually a bulge.  Here is where the sports hernia is different, it will typically start with a groin injury or groin pain and develops over time from there.

So how does an injury move from the groin (or adductors) up to the lower abdominals?  The answer is that it does not actually move from one location to the other.  The injury in the groin leads to a secondary result of a change in the way an athlete uses their hip joint after groin injury.

Is The Injury Healed When The Pain Is Gone?

The goal of most hockey players (and some of their therapists) after groin injury is to make the pain stop.  No pain = No injury right?  Wrong.

In an attempt to make the pain go away, the player finds new ways to use his or her hip that will not put load on the adductor group of five different muscles.  This is not necessarily a conscious attempt to change your movement patterns, but a subconscious compensation pattern.

Think about the last time you strained your groin.  What movements hurt the most?  Probably abduction/extension at the hip – picture a skating stride.

So instead of getting that movement from the hip, you may lock up the front of that hip and get the extension from your lower back – which will put your abdominal muscles on a stretch and overtime can lead to the overuse of the lower abs and a sports hernia.

Preventative Strategy

Once again a pre-emptive strategy is the best approach.  I love the sequence recommended by Michael Boyle in his book Advances In Functional Training.

  • Foam Roll
  • Static Stretch
  • Dynamic Warm Up
  • Strength

So here are the exercises that I target in our programs at Revolution Conditioning with the intention of reduce our athletes’ risk of sports hernia…

  • Foam Roll – groins & hip flexors
  • Elevated Hip Flexor Stretch
  • Supine Hip Internal Rotation Stretch
  • Supine Hip Flexion & hold 2x10s holds
  • Ball Squeeze & Hip Flexion

Those are some of the basic exercises that we include in our workouts.  We also integrate split squats, single leg squats, slide board training, lateral squats, single leg glute bridging and single leg deadlifts in our programming which help build strong, stable hips through full range of motion.

So take a look at your current routine to see if you are including the basics from the bullet list above, if not, get started.  Don’t worry – I will post video of the exercises – just in case you don’t recognize some of those.  Stay tuned….


PS – be sure to keep an eye on your email later this week – I have an exciting new program coming out that for the first 50-goalie to jump on board will go for less than $15.  This offer will go out to those of you on the Insider’s List (i.e. those of you who get my emails) FIRST!