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Three Months and Counting

It has now been over three months since I stopped running and playing hockey due to a sports hernia. I started off with physical therapy two times a week for a few weeks and saw little improvement. Over the past three months I have seen a decent improvement with the exercises and amount of weight I use at the gym. I am now able to bend backwards without holding onto the bar for decline bench presses and use the arc trainer. The problem is that I am still unable to run in any capacity, I cannot do any goaltending stretches that involve lunges, and I am unable to skate. During the past three months I have not stopped researching sports hernia’s in the hope that I finally come across a doctor who truly has experience with them. I am happy to say that the search is over.

After the initial diagnosis from my regular doctor and going to physical therapy for a few weeks I ended up going to see an orthopedic specialist. He has extensive experience with pelvic trauma and referred me to a surgeon he recommended. I had to wait over a month to see the surgeon and his assessment was that I had a hernia in addition to the sports hernia. The next step was to have an MRI done. Well from the research I have done I knew the chances were high that the MRI was going to come back normal. You see, sports hernia’s are such a unique animal that they typically do not reveal themselves on imaging. It took two days to get my results and the results showed that my pelvis was “unremarkable” (which means there is nothing wrong) and that there was no sign of muscular injury, and no femoral or inguinal hernias. So the surgeons diagnosis that I also have a regular hernia was wrong.

On one hand this is good news. The good news is that there is no visible damage and there are no defects in my hips. An issue with your hips can sometimes mimic sports hernia symptoms, so the MRI ruled that out for me. The bad news is that there was nothing seen. The doctor was supposed to call me back that day to go over the results, but it took him over a week. In that time I was still doing research and came across another surgeon in Colorado that has experience with sports hernia’s. I called his office and was able to get an appointment within a week.

The original surgeon suggested that we do exploratory surgery to “see what he can find” and to repair whatever damage he finds. I am not one to rush to the operating room and did not feel comfortable with the surgeon’s approach. Thankfully I made that appointment with the other surgeon because at this point I was starting to feel like I was never going to recover from my injury.

Dr. Robert MacDonald took the time to answer all of my questions. He explained to me what is actual done in a sports hernia surgery and debunked a lot of the myths that are circulating around. There is no magic surgery for a sports hernia. The surgery is almost identical to a regular hernia repair. The tissue is stimulated to kick-start the healing process and depending on the extent of the injury, a piece of mesh might be put in place. It does not matter if you have an MRI with or without contrast and it does not matter if your MRI was done with the exact suggested protocols specific to sports hernias. The reason it does not matter is the fact regardless if something is detected or not, if the injury does not heal on its own, surgery is required.

When you do enough research on sports hernia’s you come across a large list of professional athletes who rush to the operating room and have surgery right after the injury occurs. The main reason behind this is money. These players are under contractual obligations and have to provide a certain level of performance. They cannot sit on the bench for six months to over a year slowly rehabbing the injury. Besides costing the team money and performance, the player can and will be replaced with the 2nd string guy jumping at the chance to prove that they should be number one.

In my case I am not a multi-million dollar goaltender in the NHL. With this in mind it is why Dr. MacDonald recommended that I give my body another three months to try to heal. He said that three months with the injury is the borderline of whether or not to have surgery. Since I have shown small signs of improvement, he said that it is a decent indication that I might have a shot to avoid the operating table. I was given the name of a physical therapist he recommended and asked that I do PT for the next three months. At the end of the three months if I do not show enough signs of improvement Dr. MacDonald said I will probably need to have surgery.

Now it has come down to a waiting game. During the next three months my focus is on doing everything I can in PT in the hopes that my body does what it was designed to do and repair the sports hernia on its own. I am thankful for the fact I am pretty much at 100% in the gym and that I can swim without any pain. There are days when I am desperate to go for a run or going nuts not being able to play goalie. Up until the injury I had a very active lifestyle and having to shut the majority of it down has been frustrating. I try my best to focus on what is in my control and dedicate my mindset to getting better and being confident without a doubt that I will be back to running and playing hockey soon.

“The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.” ~ Chinese proverb

  1. mike
    July 28, 2012 at 10:43 am

    hope it all works out! really enjoy your blog.

    • jkassay
      July 28, 2012 at 11:36 am

      Thanks for your support, I appreciate it. Glad you like the blog.

  2. Mike
    August 13, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    Hey man, I think I’m in the same boat. I’m a soccer player, though. Think I have the same problem. I found your blog by researching Dr MacDonald. I haven’t had any MRIs or XRAYS. Do you recommend I see Dr MacDonald for an evaluation or a diagnosis of a sport hernia?

    • jkassay
      August 13, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      Sorry to hear that you are in the same boat as I am in. I think it would be fine to go see Dr. MacDonald as your first consultation on this injury. Good luck and let me know what happens.

  3. Mike
    August 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    thanks dude, I will let you know what happens.

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