This month we are going to go over a number of athletic injuries. We’ll cover why these injuries occur, the mechanism as to how they occur, and what the recovery process looks like for long term health. A common injury that we see due to the number of hockey players we see are groin strains. Although the incidence of groin strains are high in hockey, many other sports put athletes at risk for this injury as well. Let’s dive into why groin strains occur and what we can do about reducing the likelihood of them from happening!

Anatomy

Your adductor muscles are the muscles more commonly known as your groin muscles. They are a pretty vast muscle group and are responsible for many functions of the hip, pelvis and knee when it comes to daily function and higher level activity. You can see the overview of the groin muscles and the main action they are responsible for below.

The groin muscles extend throughout the length of the femur, originating from the pelvis and attach along the femur. The gracilis does attach below the knee joint so it does serve other functions as well.

Mechanism of Injury

The main mechanism of injury for groin strains is when you have to rapidly accelerate or decelerate the leg as you change direction. Specifically, when doing any type of lateral movement where you are pushing one way to go another direction. That quick, rapid stretch to the muscle is what overloads that tissue and normally leads to a strain. In hockey this is even more troublesome due to foot not being in contact with the ground. This reduces the likelihood the foot can absorb some of the forces as you push off the leg through the skate. The location of pain when it comes to strains are usually high up in the groin region or long the inner thigh.

Are Athletes Predisposed To Groin Strains?

There are some risk factors that have been shown to increase the likelihood that an athlete sustains a groin injury. The key factors were previous history of a groin strain, the strength of your groin muscles, and the strength difference between the outer hip versus the groin.

The primary function of the muscles around the hip are to help stabilize the joint and allow the ball to be centered in the socket. Lack of strength either along the outer hip or the groin predisposes the hip joint to more stress but also the soft tissue around it. When looking at how groin strains happen, if when changing direction the outer hip doesn’t stabilize the hip well enough, that can overload the groin muscles.

Recovery

The severity of a muscle strain can play a vital part in determining recovery. We grade soft tissue injuries on a scale of 1-3, with 1 being the least severe, and 3 being a potential rupture of the muscle itself.

Although MRI’s are usually the gold standard to determine how severe the injury is, a physical exam and some testing can give us an indicator of functionality and how we they are able to move around. From there we can develop a plan that best meets the need of the athlete to return to sport. I will just put a disclaimer out there that there are no absolutes with regards to the above scale. Typically, there is some overlap between severity and that is why the physical exam is important to determine the next step.

The higher the strain, typically the longer the recovery. Restoring basic function is the goal to reduce compensation when walking or doing daily activities. From there, then it’s a gradual return to higher level activity. I won’t go into too much detail on the specific steps for recovery, but restoring strength and endurance is the priority.

Summary

Groin strains can be a tricky injury to manage when it comes to change of direction sports. Add in the fact that muscles don’t work in isolation during sports, you have to consider other tissues as well. Your hamstrings, quadriceps, and all the other surrounding tissues have to be up to par to reduce excess stress on the groin. Hockey, soccer, football, and many other sports involve change of direction movements at rapid speeds. Putting your athletes in a position to succeed with a sound strength program should not be overlooked. It can go a long way in reducing many injuries from occurring.

Have any further questions on groin strains? Leave a comment below or reach out to us!

Happy Lifting!

Dr. Russ

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