So You Strained Your Groin – Now What?

Man with groin strain

Have you seen the movie Bloodsport? If you haven’t, let me put it this way: it’s the best cheesy ’80s kickboxing movie of all time – one that I’d highly recommend (if you’re into that sort of thing). There’s a famous scene in the movie where Jean Claude Van Damme is doing the splits while meditating. But doing the splits the normal way isn’t enough for Van Damme – he does them with each foot resting on chairs, with nothing supporting his body in between. Whenever I think of a groin strain I picture this scene.

Although you or I won’t ever be able to match Van Damme’s groin strength (unless you happened to be an elite gymnast), we can strive to improve ours – and we should because, as it turns out, strengthening not only helps you recover from groin strains, but it can also help prevent them.

What is a Groin Strain Anyways?

When you strain your groin, the Adductor muscles – which move your hip inward, are usually involved1.

Muscle strains occur as the result of excessive stretch while the muscle is being contracted2 – during what we call an eccentric muscle contraction3.

It makes sense that sports requiring strong eccentric contractions of the adductor muscles, like ice hockey and soccer, are commonly associated with groin strains4.

In fact, groin strains are among the most common disabling problems in sports5, comprising up to 5% of all sport-related injuries6.

Therefore, it’s super important you know how to rehabilitate this injury and how to prevent it, especially if you play sports.

 

What Puts You at Risk For a Groin Strain?

Well, if you’ve already had a groin strain, there’s a greater chance for re-injury7. A recent study showed athletes in the Australian football league who had groin strains were 2 to 3 times more likely to get injured the following season8.

This is why rehabilitation following a groin strain is so important (see below).

Even more so than a previous injury, weak hip adductor muscles are highly associated with future groin strains. In fact, athletes with weak adductors have a 4x higher risk of injury9.

A group of researchers looked at NHL hockey players’ hip adduction strength. What they found was that injured players were 18% weaker prior to a groin strain than un-injured players10.

It’s also been shown that fatigue may play a role in groin strains – explaining why these injuries usually occur toward the end of practices or games11.

Lessons learned:

  • If you’ve had a previous groin strain, work extra hard to rehabilitate before returning to sports
  • Get your hip adductor muscles strong
  • Don’t over-exert yourself when you’re already fatigued

Let’s put this knowledge into practice with some effective treatment strategies…

 

How To Treat a Groin Strain

The main goals of rehabilitation for a groin strain are to regain full range of motion and to progressively strengthen the adductor muscles.

1. Hip Range of Motion – Gradual Loading of the Tendon

 

2. Progressive Adductor Strengthening

 

Yes, Prevention is Possible

…although it’s impossible to prevent groin strain injuries all together, we can lower the incidence of them12.

Recently, a group of researchers implemented an adductor strengthening program for NHL hockey players and reduced groin strains from 11 in two seasons to 3 the following 2 seasons13.

In 2004, Major League Soccer started a groin injury prevention program and helped reduce strains by 28%. The program consisted of dynamic stretching, strengthening, and pelvic proprioception exercises aimed at keeping a neutral pelvis during dynamic activities14.

My recommendations for prevention:

  • Keep the adductors strong
    • Incorporate adductor strengthening into your workout routine 2–3 times per week
    • Progressively increase loads as you’re able
    • In addition to the above exercises, slide boards are a great way to eccentrically strengthen the adductors
  • Perform dynamic warmups before sports
    • The hip range of motion exercise shown above is a great way to dynamically stretch and load the adductors, preparing them for more vigorous activity.

Question: What can you start doing now to treat or prevent a groin strain? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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  2. Garret, WE. Muscle Strain Injuries. Am J Sports Med. 1996;24(6):S2–8.  ↩
  3. Dornan P: A report on 140 hamstring injuries. Austral J Sports Med 4: 30–36, 1971  ↩
  4. Ekstrand J, Gillquist J. The avoidability of soccer injuries. Int J Sports Med. 1983;4(2):124–128.  ↩
  5. Agre JC Hamstring injuries—proposed aetiological factors, prevention, and treatment Sports Med 2:21–33. 1985.  ↩
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  9. Engebretsen AH, et al. Intrinsic risk factors for groin injuries among male soccer players: a prospective cohort study. Am J Sports Med. 2010;38(10):2051–57.  ↩
  10. Tyler TF, Nicholas SJ, Campbell RJ, McHugh MP. The association of hip strength and flexibility on the incidence of groin strains in professional ice hockey players. Am J Sports Med. 2001;29(2):124–128.  ↩
  11. Dornan P: A report on 140 hamstring injuries. Austral J Sports Med 4: 30–36, 1971  ↩
  12. Giza E, Mithöfer K, Farrell L, Zarins B, Gill T. Injuries in women’s professional soccer. Br J Sports Med. 2005;39(4):212–216.  ↩
  13. Tyler TF, Campbell R, Nicholas SJ, Donellan S, McHugh MP. The effectiveness of a preseason exercise program on the prevention of groin strains in professional ice hockey players. Am J Sports Med. 2002;30(5):680–683.  ↩
  14. Tyler TF, et al. Groin injuries in sports medicine. Sports Health. 2010;2(3):231–236.  ↩
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