Originally published on September 4, 2013
Many People Believe You Can Get a Hernia From Deadlifts, But Is it True?
It is commonly believed that hernias are caused by a single bout of heavy lifting. Certainly, many people have felt the first symptoms of a hernia as they lift something heavy, such as on a construction job or just around the house. Therefore, it makes sense that the deadlift could be a prime cause of hernias. After all, a great amount of strain can be placed on the abdominal wall, and this strain might tear open the tissues. There are different kinds of hernias, but surely, if anything can give you one, it is the deadlift. Although there is no such thing as a ‘deadlift hernia,’ there is a special danger, many people claim, during the negative phase of the lift, when you are returning the bar to the floor. Is this true?
Hernias are Not More Common Among Strength Trainees, Powerlifters, and Olympic Lifters
Well, if it were true that heavy lifting was a cause of hernias, we’d expect to see more hernias in strength trainees, Olympic lifters, Powerlifters, and other strength athletes. But we do not.
Although it is still possible that the highly increased abdominal pressure during the deadlift could force abdominal contents through weak natural openings, or acquired openings, there is no evidence that this is a common occurrence during the lift. If you develop the symptoms of a hernia during the lift, it is quite likely that you already had a hernia, perhaps for years. A hernia can go unnoticed and symptom-free for a very long period of time, and it is possible to have a hernia that never really bothers you. There is no evidence that heavy lifting itself causes hernias, but rather, heavy lifting is one of the things that can cause an already present hernia to become acute.
A groin pull, especially during returning the bar, is quite possible and the symptoms of such a strain could easily mimic a hernia. Although I would never tell you that heavy deadlifting is a risk-free activity, I think that you can rest assured that there is not a high risk for hernia during the lift, in general.
What About Sports Hernias?
It’s likely that the term “sports hernia” just popped into your mind. Why is there such a thing as a sports hernia if athletes don’t get a lot of hernias? Sports hernias, it turns out, are not really hernias at all. There is longstanding groin pain, and this pain can extend to the scrotum, such as in an inguinal hernia, but there is no actual hole in the abdominal wall, and none of its contents protrude from this nonexistent hole. A sports hernia, instead, is the stretching and tearing of some of the groin muscles. Also, even sports hernias are not more common in lifters, but in athletes such as tennis players, hockey players, soccer players, etc.
Does Any Exercise CAUSE Hernias?
After seeing a video from the Athleanx channel, and even noticing that a commenter on the video is now “scared shitless” I wanted to place an adendum to this article. Is any exercise, deadlift inclued, known to cause hernias. The answer is a resounding NO! As stated, hernia are not known to be caused by exercises, but instead, single bouts of heavy lifting sometimes cause existing hernias to be exacerbated. Most hernias are not acquired opendings in the abdominal wall but are existing congenital weaknesses in the wall. So, while it may seem like a lift has brought on a hernia, what has really happened is that a lift has caused a hernia to become symptomatic. Despite this, there is no evidence that lifters or even Olympic weightlifters suffer more acute hernias than the general population and a bad cough or sneeze has been known to do the same thing! This kind of spreading of fear for the sake of video views is absolutely dishonest and ignorant. This is something that will never happen here at StrengthMinded. While I do not care if you lift or not, I do care if you are needlessly fearful about exercises that when done correctly, are generally benign and beneficial.