Depending on the severity, a groin strain can range from a slight stretching, to a complete rupture of the muscles that attach the pubic (pelvis) bone to the thigh (femur) bone. A groin strain specifically affects the “Adductor” muscles. (Adductor; meaning, moves part closer to the midline, or middle of the body) These muscles are located on the inside of the thigh, and help to bring the legs together. The adductor muscles consist of “Adductor Brevis”, “Adductor Magnus” and “Adductor Longus,” all of which are displayed in the picture to the right. Adductor Longus has been cut to display the muscles underneath. Of these three, it is Adductor Longus that is most susceptible to injury, and the most common place of injury on Adductor Longus is the point at which the muscle and tendon attach to the femur (thigh) bone. When a muscle is strained, the muscle is stretched too far. Less severe strains pull the muscle beyond their normal excursion. More severe strains tear the muscle fibres, and can even cause a complete tear of the muscle. Most commonly, groin strains are minor tears of some muscle fibres, but the bulk of the muscle tissue remains intact.
What Causes a Groin Strain?
Competitors that participate in sports that require a lot of running or rapid change in direction are most susceptible to groin injuries. Other activities like kicking, jumping and rapid acceleration or deceleration also place a lot of strain on the groin muscles. Another activity that puts a lot of strain on the groin is any movement that results in a sudden pressure being applied. Such as a fall, landing awkwardly, twisting, or bending while stress is applied to the groin muscles.
What are the symptoms of a groin strain?
An acute groin pull can be quite painful, depending on the severity of the injury. Groin pulls are usually graded as follows:
- Grade I Groin Strain: Mild discomfort, often no disability. Usually does not limit activity.
- Grade II Groin Strain: Moderate discomfort, can limit ability to perform activities such as running and jumping. May have moderate swelling and bruising associated.
- Grade III Groin Strain: Severe injury that can cause pain with walking. Often patients complain of muscle spasm, swelling, and significant.
How to Prevent a Groin Strain?
The basis of prevention comes down to two simple factors. A thorough warm-up and physical conditioning, ie: flexibility & strength. Firstly, a thorough and correct warm up will help to prepare the muscles and tendons for any activity to come. Secondly, flexible muscles and tendons are extremely important in the prevention of most strain or sprain injuries. When muscles and tendons are tight and stiff, it is quite easy for those muscles and tendons to be pushed beyond their natural range of movement, which can cause strains, sprains, and pulled muscles. To keep your muscles and tendons flexible and supple, it is important to undertake a structured stretching routine.
Athletes who sustain a groin strain will need osteopathy and incorporate a stretching program as part of their rehabilitation. Some simple stretches can help ease the symptoms of a groin strain. Furthermore, stretching can be a useful part of preventing groin injuries from occurring. As a general rule, the stretches should not hurt. There should be a gentle pulling sensation of the muscle, but this should not be painful.
The squatting adductor stretch:
- Squat to the ground with your arms between your legs.
- Allow your knees to move outwards.
- Stretch your legs apart by pushing out with your elbows.
The butterfly stretch
- This is done in a sitting position.
- Sit with your feet together and knees bent. Grasp your feet with your hands.
- Stretch your knees down towards the ground.
- Do not bounce. Feel the stretch along your inner thigh.
The adductor stretch
- This is done while standing.
- Stretch one leg out to the side, keeping your other leg under your torso.
- Bend the knee underneath your torso to stretch the muscles of the inner thigh of the opposite leg.
- Your outstretched leg should have a straight knee, and you should feel the stretch on the inner thigh.
The cross-leg stretch
- This is done while sitting.
- While sitting in a chair, cross one leg over the other.
- Press the knee of the crossed leg down towards the ground.
- This stretch will emphasize the muscles of the inner thigh and front of the thigh.