Sports Hernia – No Need to Stay Down & Out

What Used to be a Season Ending Injury – Now a Mere Annoyance

by Dr. David Edelman

One of the “Top Ten Peskiest Injuries‰Û¢bCrLf for runners, a hernia injury undoubtedly tops the list, as the painful condition is often overlooked and nearly impossible to prevent.

Although there are many types of hernias that afflict athletes, the sports hernia is a very common type found in runners.  A sports hernia presents itself as a tear or strain in one of the three muscles in the lower abdomen wall and typically begins with a slow onset of aching pain in the lower abdominal region.  Symptoms of a sports hernia often include pain in the lower abdomen, groin and testicles.  The injury can cause severe pain or discomfort to athletes, especially when lifting, running or even coughing.

Today, we are still unaware of just what causes the agonizing injury.  In most cases, physicians believe it is related to genetics. Sports hernias can affect all types too, from the average Joe to the amateur athlete to the professional all-star.  Any prolonged physical activity involving twisting and straining can cause small tears in the muscles, thereby resulting in a sports hernia.

Until recently, traditional surgery was the only treatment option and often meant ten to twelve weeks of rest.  The corrective surgery was invasive and often involved a synthetic or plastic material to repair the muscle which can often cause a longer recovery time. Today, with a more modern procedure called laparoscopic or minimal access surgery and a biodesigned material that communicates with the body to remodel the host
tissues, runners are returning to their exercise routine just two to three weeks after treatment.

After recognizing the shortcomings of the synthetic mesh in the medical community, engineers at Cook Medical developed Surgisis Biodesign, an advanced tissue repair product that continues to revolutionize the medical
industry. Outside of sports hernias, Surgisis Biodesign is used for tissue repair procedures from head to toe. In addition to various hernia repairs, the material has FDA approval for use in pelvic floor repair, treating stress
urinary incontinence and anal fistula repair, replacing the dura mater during neurosurgery, surgery to treat Peyronie’s Disease and in a variety of other general and cosmetic surgery applications.

During the procedure, Surgisis Biodesign is applied to repair the tear in the muscle. After recognizing the material as a natural tissue, Surgisis Biodesign communicates with the body, signaling surrounding tissue to grow across the scaffold. This action supports the healing process by attracting cells and nutrients to the area. The body begins to use the scaffold to heal the tear in the muscle.  Over time, Surgisis Biodesign completely remodels into strong, fully vascularized tissue.

The advantage of using Surgisis Biodesign is that the body accepts the treatment more quickly, thus accelerating the healing process. Surgisis Biodesign remodels to become as strong as the patient’s own tissue. Once the healing process is complete, the material is undetectable-providing a permanent repair without a permanent material.
In contrast, synthetic meshes become very tough and stiff within the body. It can take three to six months for that stiffness to loosen up to a point where a runner can start moving normally. With Surgisis Biodesign, athletes are able to quickly return to a normal physical state within a couple of weeks.

Although laparoscopic surgery utilizing Surgisis Biodesign can offer exceptional results for any athlete suffering from a sports hernia injury, the procedure may not be appropriate for everyone.  In many cases,
resting, medications and physical therapy can help to alleviate the symptoms of a hernia injury. Nevertheless, surgery has consistently shown to be the most effective treatment for repairing the muscle completely.

Although the injury is difficult to prevent, physicians remind athletes to stretch and warm up their muscles before any intense training.  Individuals at risk should include exercises that increase flexibility and strength in their daily exercise routines.

Dr. David Edelman is director of the Laparoscopic Surgery Center at Baptist Hospital in South Florida. He is also the general surgeon for the Miami Heat, the NBA professional basketball team.

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