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TREATMENT

The treatment plan depends on the severity of the injury. In most cases, the treatment is rest, combined with an anti-inflammatory drug, ice, and a strengthening program. This allows most athletes to fully recover and return to their sports. If this fails and surgery is necessary, as in Smith's case, the hiatus is closed surgically and then the patient can again rest the area, use the anti-inflammatory drugs, ice, and the strengthening program. This will obviously keep the athlete out of his sport for a longer period of time.

PREVENTION

Fear of hernias is the main reason that athletes exercise the abdomen. The stronger an athlete's abdominal musculature is, the more stable the lower abdominal wall is and, as a result, the lesser the chance of injury. However, if the player has a pre-existing weakness, there is little that he can do to avoid an injury.

RECOVERY

The recovery program and period vary depending on the athlete. For minor sports hernias, an athlete may miss just 2-4 weeks. But if it is slightly more serious, he may miss six weeks. If a surgical procedure is necessary, an athlete may miss the entire season, and it may take 6-12 months before he is back to full strength. It is a slow and gradual recovery. Smith has return to playing but may still feel pain and weakness in the area, as with any other athlete who suffers this injury.

LONG-TERM OUTLOOK

Many athletes suffer no lingering effects from this type of injury. If the athlete is treated properly, rests well, and lets the injury heal, he will most likely be able to return to pre-injury form. If the athlete rushes back into play too soon, he may hinder both his recovery and his play. Once an athlete does return, however, he has a slightly increased chance of suffering a sports hernia in the future.

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