avoid pulled groin muscles

5 Ways to Avoid a Pulled Groin

Don’t let an all-too-common injury ruin your summer fun.

By Megan O’Neill

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Summer is the season of pick-up basketball games and tennis matches, so sports medicine experts are likely to see more patients with groin pain now than during any other season. “We commonly consider groin injuries and muscle strains around the hip to be related more to playing sports than exercising,” says C. David Geier, Jr., M.D., director of sports medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina and a spokesman for the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. This is because exercising on machines follows controlled movements, while most field and court sports require quick bursts of speed as well as frequent changes in direction, which can put strain and stress on muscles in the groin. Pain in the groin is usually the result of overstretching the adductor muscles, which help stabilize the hip joint. When these muscles are stretched beyond their limits, they can tear and become sore to the touch, and even cause swelling and bruising. The result: You’re sitting the next one out.

To prevent groin pulls, be sure to warm up and stretch before activities that leave your leg muscles more vulnerable to tears. And follow this activity-specific advice:

Tennis: This court sport requires a lot of stop and go and side-to-side movement. Constantly shifting your body weight from one leg to the other, as well as changing speed and direction, can lead to missteps that stretch the adductor muscles to their limits. Make sure to wear proper footwear when playing tennis, and keep sneakers properly snug; they should support and stabilize your ankle to prevent twists and falls. Don’t forget to warm up with a light jog and some stretches before starting a set.
Basketball: Fancy footwork and quick bursts of speed are required for this team sport. When you’re sprinting up and down the court before coming to a quick stop to shoot, or playing defense—which means you may be doing all of the above but backwards or sideways—it’s easy to strain your groin. Stretch out your inner thigh muscles, as well as your hamstrings, before games.
Skiing: You may not be going skiing anytime soon, but now’s a great time to get your body ready for when you go. Groin injuries can occur when you plant one of your skis on the ground, and the other leg goes in a different direction, stretching your inner thigh muscles as far as they can go. Strengthen and condition your leg muscles preseason, and when you’re on the slopes, don’t take on terrain that you’re unsure your skiing skills can handle.
Running: Dr. Geier points out that running injuries more often involve the buttocks and hamstrings, though sprinting drills can lead to groin pulls. If you take a wrong step while running, or push off incorrectly, you’re likely to suffer an inner-thigh injury as well. Be aware of the terrain while running any distance at any speed, and watch where you plant your feet. If you’re training for a distance race, and fatigue is making your form sloppy, try taking a break to avoid a misstep that could cause lasting damage.
Lifting Heavy Objects: It’s important to use proper technique to avoid injuring your back or groin when lifting. Hold heavy objects close to your body, bend at the knees, keep your spine straight, and lift with your legs. Tighten your stomach muscles as you lift. Get help if the item is too heavy. And hold on tight: Accidentally dropping your load could create a sudden stretch in your adductors that would certainly injure them.
Too Late? If the damage is already done, Dr. Geier recommends following the classic R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression and elevation) method of healing as soon as you can, for at least a day. Stay off your feet; use an ice pack wrapped in a towel to ice the effected area (keep the ice in place for about 20 minutes, take it off for 20 minutes; repeat as needed). If you can wrap the area, use an ace bandage; make it snug but not uncomfortably tight. And try to lie so the injured area is higher than your heart, or at least level to the ground. Give yourself an ample amount of time to recover before gradually easing back into the activity that caused the injury. It’s time to see a doctor if, even after a long recovery period, you feel you’re not performing at the level of play you’re used to.


Published on: July 7, 2009

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