Groin Strain Causes and Prevention

Pain in the groin can be due to a number of causes and can come on gradually or very suddenly. If an acute (sudden onset) groin strain is not treated efficiently and correctly it may become prone to recurring and chronic / long term in nature.

It should be stressed that chronic injuries are much harder to treat than acute injuries and take considerably longer to heal.

What is a groin strain?

A groin strain is a tear to the muscle fibres of one ore more of the adductor muscles. There are five groin (adductor) muscles, three of them are called the short adductors )pectineus, adductor brevis and adductor longus and the other two are called the long adductors (gracilis and adductor magnus).

The main function of the adductor muscle group is to pull the leg back towards the midline, a movement called adduction. They also stabilize and control the pelvis during movement of the legs during most activities including walking, running, sprinting, playing football, horse riding, hurdling and any sport which requires rapid changes in direction. This is achieved by the adductor muscles on one side keeping the pelvis level and still while the adductor muscles on the opposite side are used to move the leg.

Adductor brevis muscle Adductor magnus muscle Gracilis muscle

A rupture or tear in the muscle usually occurs during activities such as sprinting, changing direction or during rapid movements of the leg against resistance such as kicking a ball. The adductor longus muscle is most commonly torn in cases of groin strain.

The likelihood of sustaining an injury is increased if a thorough warm-up has not been completed first! Finally, repetitive overuse of the groin muscles may result in adductor tendinopathy or chronic inflammation of the groin which are often long term injuries and are much harder to treat.

Prevention

Prevention of groin strains is similar to other muscles in that there are things you need to do before and after training, as well as strengthening work inbetween training.

Before training, it is important to warm-up thoroughly, especially for something like football where there is twisting adn turning and kicking balls. Start with jogging, gradually building up to sprinting and then stretching. The aim is to take the muscle from a short, rested, state, to it's full length. Neal uses both static and active or dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretches involve movements like side lunges to stretch and then shorten the muscle, just like it happens in a game. The muscles need to be ready to act like this from the first minute of the match.

If you strengthen a muscle then it is going to get shorter and shorter over a period of time. So stretching is really important to do alongside a strengthening routine. On the reverse of that, if you just do stretching and flexibility, the muscle is very long, but if you don't have the strength this is when it is most vulnerable, so injuries and groin pain are more likely.

Strengthening can be done using resistance bands or cables. Even a groin resistance machine if this is all that is available to you. A lot of sportsmen have very strong abdominals but they don't work on the groin muscles. The abs get so strong and pull very hard on the pelvis and the groin muscles don't have the strength to counteract it.

Sports massage is good for injury prevention, it can be used before and after training to get you ready for training and then to flush away waste products. A warm-down will also help with this.

Expert Interview

Premiership physiotherapist Neal Reynolds talks about preventing groin strains.