By Amy McGorry
Hockey goalies are known for making great saves, but in the process can easily end up performing acrobatic splits -- and not being "saved" from a groin injury. Hockey isn't the only sport in which this injury is common. Football, soccer, karate, uphill running and horseback riding can also leave you sidelined.
A hip adductor groin strain is one of the more common groin injuries. The hip adductors are a group of muscles along the inner thigh that move your leg towards the center of the body, stretching from the pubic bone down to the knee. The tendons have a poor blood supply and attach to a region that has a large number of nerves. This combination creates a painful and slow-healing injury.
When Groin Injuries Are A Pain
The risk of injury increases when the hip adductors contract suddenly (such as when a tennis player quickly changes direction), or in any sport, like soccer or hockey, that involves side-to-side, pushing-off motions. Weakness or lack of flexibility in the hip adductors can prevent proper functioning. Tears range from mild (grade 1) to severe (grade 3), in which most fibers are torn.
Players with groin injuries often complain of stabbing or pulling pain in the groin. Swelling, bruising, difficulty walking or crossing the legs are other common symptoms. Healing varies from two weeks to several months, depending on the severity.
Why You're Sidelined
The muscles in your legs need a good balance. If the hip abductors (on the outside of the hip) are tight or too strong, they pull at your inner thigh muscles and cause a strain.
Look at a hockey goalie. The hip abductors move the goalie’s legs outward. The hip adductors on the inside of the thigh need flexibility and strength to counter this pull, otherwise the goalie would flop into a split (cringe now).
Or in football, a player running to score may suddenly change direction to avoid a defensive player. This tugs on the muscles and tendons in the leg and can cause a strain.
How To Stay In The Game
An overall flexibility and strengthening program is recommended to prevent groin strain. Try these exercises:
- Step your left foot out to the side
- Shift your weight towards left leg
- “Sit" into a squat, making a 90 degree angle at the left knee
- Keep knees behind toes
- Repeat on the right side
- Do 2 sets of 10 reps
Sidelying Hip Adductors
- Lie on your side
- Stack hips vertical to the floor
- Bend the top knee bend and resting on a ball in front of you
- Lift bottom leg towards ceiling, keeping it straight
- Keep toes and knees pointed forward
- 2 set of 10 reps
Eccentric Hip Adduction
- Tie a resistive band to a secure object
- Tie the other end around your ankle
- Stand, holding on to something secure
- Start with your leg out to the side (hip abduction) and bring it into the midline or center of your body
- Hold for 2 seconds (a isometric hold)
- Move the leg outward to the starting position in a slow, controlled motion (band should be tight enough to resist both motions)
- Sit with your knees bent and feet together
- Lean forward
- Press your knees down to the ground with your elbows
- Hold for 30 seconds and repeat
Always check with a physician prior to starting any exercise program. And remember: You may be sidelined... but not for long!