The groin pull or strain is one of those terms that is loosely tossed around by athletes and sports commentators alike. What exactly is a groin pull? Can you pull more than one groin? Is groin ever plural? For the answer to these and other questions on this topic, read on!
The term “groin” actually refers to a group of muscles on the inside of your thigh, extending from the pubic bone (front part of the pelvis) to just below your knee. The entire inner surface of your thigh is made up of groin muscles, which include the adductor magnus, adductor longus, adductor brevis and the gracilis muscles. If any of these muscles is strained, it is referred to as a groin pull.
The muscles work together to bring the legs in toward each other. Activities such as horseback riding, dribbling a soccer ball or kicking a ball with the inside portion of your foot require strength in the groin muscles.
As with other types of strains, a groin pull can occur from a single severe trauma, such as having your legs slip and ending up in a split. More typically, however, it is the result of cumulative microtraumas that aren’t allowed to heal properly.
An athlete engaged in karate or kick boxing, for example, can repetitively sprain the groin when certain types of kicks are blocked. A speed skater cutting a turn can strain the groin muscles if he/she loses the skate edge. A blocked kick in soccer, or a collision while dribbling the ball can also result in this injury, which will worsen if proper rest isn’t taken.
The symptoms of a mild groin pull may not be noticed immediately. Your groin muscles may start cramping after you have finished your activity. If you notice any cramping or tenderness in these muscles, stop your activity and assess the situation. In a severe groin pull, you may feel a pop or a sharp pain. As always, seek medical attention and keep weight off the leg until your condition is evaluated.
Treatment of this area includes rest, ice, compression and elevation. Mild strains usually resolve after rest and gentle pain-free stretching for about 7-10 days. Start back to activity slowly, avoiding stress on the area. Activities such as walking or bicycling on a stationary bike or rowing are good. Once you can squeeze a soccer ball between your knees and not feel any pain in the injured area, you can assess your ability to run, cut and sprint. If these are pain free as well, sports activities can be resumed carefully.
In more severe cases, a groin pull can actually cause an imbalance in the pelvic bones. This imbalance can perpetuate the groin injury and create a chronic problem if it isn’t properly treated. Scar tissue from a severe strain may also need to be addressed in individuals who have on and off problems in this area. See a physical therapist experienced in postural/pelvic alignment and sports injuries.
Prevention, as always, is the best solution. Keep your groin muscles stretched and your hips limber by doing a straddle stretch, which can decrease your risk of injury. After checking with your doctor, simply sit on the floor with your knees straight and bring your legs as far apart as is comfortable. You should feel a gentle pull on the inside of your thighs. This isn’t a matter where “more is better.” Allow your feet to turn out slightly and hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat 4-5 times. This exercise is ideal to do while you watch TV because a block of 4-5 commercials is usually 30 seconds each.
Stretch wisely, stay healthy.