The Complete Guide to Groin Strains
A groin strain is a stretch, tear, or complete rupture of the muscle that extends from the pubic bone to the inside of the thigh. It is the main muscle that allows you to move the leg from an outside to an inside position from the hip (initiating a crossover step in basketball or soccer, for example). A pulled or strained groin is painful and takes time to heal. You might not even notice the injury during normal daily activities, but it will get your full attention if you move with a sudden start. Returning to training or competition too soon is a common mistake.
How It Happens
Like many sports injuries, a strained groin can be caused by overuse of the primary inner thigh muscle (adductor longus), by a sudden contraction of that muscle, or by both. Sprinting, changing directions, jumping to catch a ball, running uphill and landing after a jump are all examples of actions that could trigger the injury. Inadequate warm-ups, poor technique and taking a blow to the groin area are also possible causes.
By the Numbers
Percentage of all karate injuries involving groin injuries.
Percentage of all soccer injuries involving groin injuries.
Percentage of groin and abdominal injuries among National Hockey League players not caused by contact.
Who’s At Risk
Athletes who require explosive lower leg movement, as well as those who play contact sports are in the high-risk group. That includes football, basketball, soccer, rugby and hockey players, as well as sprinters, jumpers, skaters and karate athletes.
- A mild (Grade 1) groin strain may not be very painful and may not limit mild or moderate physical activity.
- A moderate (Grade 2) sprain causes moderate discomfort and limits or prevents running and jumping.
- A severe (Grade 3) strain causes pain doing almost anything and could include any of the symptoms below:
- A stabbing pain in the groin area
- Swelling and/or bruising that may develop several days after the injury
- Inability to move the leg inward or across the front of your body
- Loss of upper leg strength with certain movements
- Muscle spasms
- In rare cases, muscle deformity
- Rest. Take 5-7 days off, then evaluate your condition.
- Apply ice packs to the area for 15-20 minutes, 3-4 times a day to minimize swelling and pain.
- Use an elastic wrap or bandage to apply pressure and limit swelling.
- Aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen may relieve pain. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen may relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
- See a doctor if there is a noticeable loss of strength in the muscle or if symptoms don’t significantly subside within two weeks.
Use symptoms (or the lack of symptoms) to determine your comeback timetable, not a certain number of days or weeks. Generally, speaking, Grade 1 symptoms usually disappear within a week; Grade 2 symptoms last 2-3 weeks; and Grade 3 symptoms can persist for 6-8 weeks or longer.
- Don’t try to come back too soon. Absence of symptoms while performing normal daily activities is deceiving and different from the forces involved in training or competition.
- No brisk walking, jogging, or running as long as you have moderate-to-severe pain.
- Once the pain disappears, gradually increase the intensity, duration, and frequency of training.
- Go through all the movements required in your sport without pain before returning to action.
Incorporate these prehab exercises into your comeback routine:
- Groin Stretch - Quadruped
- Lateral Slide Squat
- Lateral Lunge Moving
- Physioball Hanging Knee Raise - Adduction
- 90-90 Stretch
- Rotational Fall Out
How to Avoid It
Give your body time to recover (48 hours) between strenuous training sessions.
Incorporate these exercises into your dynamic warm-up:
Do not increase the intensity, frequency, or duration of your exercise routine more than 10 percent each week.
Jim Brown, Ph.D. has written 14 books on health, medicine, and sports. His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, New York Post, Sports Illustrated for Women and Better Homes & Gardens. He also writes for the Duke School of Medicine, UCLA School of Medicine, Cleveland Clinic and Steadman-Hawkins Research Foundation.
- Jennifer Lewis, PT, DPT, ATC, Performance Physical Therapist, Athletes’ Performance, Phoenix, Arizona
- Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine
- Complete Guide to Sports Injuries
- New York University Langone Medical Center
- Sports Injury Bulletin
- University Hospital, Syracuse, New York