The Groin Strain (Hip Flexor/adductor Strain): How Can I Prevent It?

What is a Groin Strain?

Groin strains are commonly seen in athletes competing in sports that require quick acceleration and change of direction in forward and lateral movements.

A groin strain is a muscle injury in the front hip region that involves the primary hip flexor muscles (iliopsoas, rectus femoris, tensor fascia latae, and sartorius) and/or the hip adductor muscle group (group of five muscles that contract to bring the leg in and across the body including the pectineus, gracilis, and adductor magnus, longus, and brevis).

A strain to a muscle is caused when the muscles are overstretched or overloaded. In this case, it can happen in a number of ways including a strong kick of a ball without warming up, a quick stretch during a lateral movement, or a fall while skiing in which the bindings do not release and the leg is twisted at the hip.

Who gets Groin Strains?

Athletes susceptible to groin strains are those in sports that require a quick change of direction as well as explosive movements. Back row volleyball players are at risk for groin injuries because of their requirement for quick dynamic side-to-side movements. While volleyball athletes may be injured going to the ball, some athletes are injured moving the ball.

Because the lower extremity kicking motion uses both adductor and hip flexor muscles, athletes competing in the sport of soccer are susceptible to groin strains especially when their hip muscles are not stretched and properly warmed up.

Dancers are also known for problems in their hips including “snapping hip” syndrome. Although there are several causes of snapping hip syndrome, one is caused by a deep hip flexor muscle/tendon (iliopsoas) popping over a bony prominence of the pelvis.

Hip flexor tightness can also be seen in dancers because of the amount of hip flexion and rotation required in their sport. The athletes will complain of pain and tightness deep in the front of the hip with palpation revealing a definitive tight band within the muscle.

What causes Groin Strains?

Groin strains are caused by either overloading or overstretching the muscle. A common mechanism of injury for soccer athletes is a half-field kick to the goal prior to warming up. The force needed to put the ball into the goal is greater than the muscle can withstand especially if the muscle is not stretched and warmed up.

Tight adductor muscles are another cause of groin strain. Most athletes concentrate on stretching their quadriceps and hamstring muscle groups, but do not give the same attention to their adductor muscle group. These muscles tend to be tighter than other hip muscles hence placing an athlete at risk for injury.

What can I do to prevent a groin strain?

Prevention of groin strains should focus on flexibility and strengthening programs for both the hip adductors and hip flexors and a proper warm-up to adequately prepare the muscles for explosive movements.

Flexibility of the hip adductor/flexor muscle group can be improved through consistent daily stretching exercises specifically geared for these muscle groups. It is well known that muscles that are consistently and properly stretched will increase their tissue flexibility. However, it is also well known that muscles that are not stretched will get tighter and tighter over time.

What is the treatment for a groin strain?

Initial Treatment (1-3 days)

The initial treatment for a groin injury will depend on the severity of the injury. But in general, the athlete should be pulled from the activity and have an ice pack immediately applied to the area for twenty minutes. After the twenty minutes, the groin should be securely wrapped with an ace bandage for support.

If a second or third degree strain is suspected, the athlete should be fitted for crutches, provided crutch-walking instructions, and referred for further medical evaluation.

The athlete should continue with a cycle of twenty minutes of ice followed by a compression wrap for the first 48 – 72 hours. The individual should also limit their activity and rest the leg as much as possible in a position of elevation (leg above the heart level). Using the PRICE principle – Protection, Rest, Icing, Compression, Elevation will help reduce the amount of swelling in the thigh. The PRICE principle applies to treating many types of sports injuries.

To read more on groin strain prevention with explanations of multiple stretching exercises as well as groin strain treatment information including recovery exercises (3-7 days) and (weeks 2-3) with explanations on strengthening exercises, please click the following link
groin strain: prevention and treatment.

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