The main cause of sports hernia (athletic pubalgia) is the hard and sudden planting of the feet and/or twisting of the body at an intense level, usually during sports. Kicking a soccer ball, shooting a hockey puck, or turning to receive a lacrosse ball are all examples of sports plays that can cause sports hernia.

See Athletic Groin Injury Causes and Risk Factors

Specific causes and risks for sustaining a sports hernia injury include, but are not limited to:

  • Players of vigorous sports that involve intense running, jumping, cutting/slicing, or twisting movements are most at risk for a sports hernia. For example, ice hockey, soccer, wrestling, football), and rugby. 1 American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine. Sports hernia (athletic pubalgia). OrthoInfo, September 2010. . Accessed December 12, 2014.
  • Professional athletes and/or any other athlete that plays a sport at an elite level, such as Division I college players or members of top traveling high-school leagues, are at a much higher risk of developing sports hernia than the general athlete population.
  • Most sports hernia patients are male. The condition is rare among female athletes.
  • Some experts believe having core muscles that are considerably weaker in comparison to the upper thigh muscles is a risk factor for sports hernia, because it increases damaging torque potential on the torso during sudden movements or stops.
  • Sometimes the cause of sports hernia is unknown, and/or develops gradually over a long period of time instead of being triggered by a single traumatic event. 2 Sweeny A. Physical therapist's guide to sports hernia., American Physical Therapist's Association. . Accessed December 19, 2014.

Any athlete with one or more of the above risk factors who is experiencing groin pain is advised to seek treatment from a medical professional trained in sports medicine to diagnose—or rule out—possible sports hernia.

Dr. Shane Nho is an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine physician specializing in arthroscopic treatment of the hip, shoulder, and knee. He serves as the Director of the Hip Preservation Center at Rush University Medical Center. Dr. Nho has been published in peer-reviewed journals.