NAME: Dominik Hasek
TEAM: Buffalo Sabres (Hockey)
INJURY: Torn Groin Muscle
HOW IT HAPPENED
Hasek injured his groin in late November while attempting to stop a slap shot in a game against the Florida Panthers. He weakly kicked out his right leg, but the puck ricocheted off of his skate, then off the post, and into the net. He fell forward onto the ice, where he lay for several minutes. He later said that he heard a popping noise and felt a burning pain.
Dominik "The Dominator" Hasek is considered by some to be the best goalie ever. He has won the Vezina Trophy five times for being the league's top goalie and has been awarded the Hart Trophy, as the league MVP, in back-to-back years. He is the NHL's highest paid goaltender and anchored the Sabres in their run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999. He also led the underdog Czech Republic team to a gold medal in the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. Hasek is 34 years old and announced before the season began that this one would be his last.
WHAT IS A TORN GROIN?
A torn groin is a tearing of the abductor muscles of the groin. The groin muscle is on the inner thigh and stretches along the thigh bone. The muscle tears as a result of abducting the leg (an outward motion like doing a split). A muscle tear is another term for a muscle pull. A common pull is a 15-20% tear of the muscle. Hasek has a 90% tear of the muscle. Goalies rely on the groin muscle every time they do "the splits" or kick out the leg to make a save. As a result, they keep the muscles very strong and flexible.
The tear is commonly diagnosed through clinical observation. Patients describe a burning pain in and around the muscle during abduction, weakness in the groin area, and the inability to abduct the muscle at all. An MRI is then used to determine the specific damage.
The treatment for a torn groin is simple: rest and restricted activity. During this time, the patient is on crutches and has a long and painful recovery. As symptoms subside, the patient can begin general stretching exercises, and as the muscle heals, he can increase the stretching. When flexibility and strength reach normal levels, he can begin training.
There is no way to prevent a muscle tear. Players can try to avoid the injury by warming up the muscles and stretching, but there is no way to fully prevent the tear. Pulls and tears are even more common with hockey players because they play on ice. Because it is slippery, they can more easily over-stretch the muscles, and because of the cold, they sometimes cannot keep their muscles warm. Goalies are at high risk because they repeatedly do splits and test the limits of the muscles' flexibility in quick bursts. They also go through parts of games where they do not face action; as a result, they tighten up and the muscles cool off.
Recovery is long and difficult for the athletes. Hasek is expected to be out for a few months. Immediately after the injury, and for a few weeks following, he was treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, ice, and rest. He will be re-evaluated after he begins rehabilitation and exercise to get a more precise picture of when he may return.
Goalies who have experienced this type of injury have generally not recovered well. Ron Hextall, a former Philadelphia Flyers goalkeeper, tore his groin and missed almost all of three seasons. After that, he continued to experience other groin problems throughout the rest of his career.