Groin injuries affect roughly 20% of soccer players due to the nature of the sport, which involves lots of kicking, inside passing and changes of direction. These movements put a large eccentric force on the adductor muscles, which puts them at risk for injury. As such, roughly 70% of soccer related groin injuries involve the adductor muscles, with the adductor longus being the most frequently injured. Injury to these muscles is usually due to overuse and muscle imbalance, two factors that can be modified with a good prevention program.
The adductor muscles consist of a group of muscles in the inner thigh that work together to move one leg in towards the other. They also assist with other hip movements, as well as balancing the pelvis. They are injured during soccer from kicking, changing direction, reaching and sprinting. Risk factors for injury include:
- Athletes with muscle imbalances around the hip/pelvis/core;
- Adductor muscle tightness or weakness;
- Higher level of play;
- Previous groin injury;
- Hip adductor to abductor muscle imbalance.
Treatment will initially be focused on controlling pain and maintaining range of motion. Depending on the severity of the injury, your therapist may also teach you how to wrap the groin in order to relieve pain. As the pain subsides other treatment strategies will be implemented such as soft tissue techniques, modalities to encourage healing, as well as a strong emphasis on exercise. Exercise will focus on the adductors, as well as the core and pelvic musculature. Reintegration into sport specific training will focus on cutting, sprinting, passing and progressive kicking exercises to improve stance leg loading and kicking leg impact. At Sheddon we use the SKLZ Star Kick Elite, a solo soccer trainer, that returns the ball with true rolls and bounces to help players build passing, receiving and shooting skills.
No athlete wants to be sidelined with an injury. Be proactive and follow the injury prevention recommendations below to ensure you stay injury free:
- Work your CORE: core and pelvic stability can prevent groin and many other injuries;
- Make sure your hip/pelvis muscles are well balanced in terms of flexibility, coordination and strength.
- Following the FIFA 11+ warm up program can prevent many injuries, including to the groin.
- Slowly integrate large amounts of isolated inside passing and kicking into training, as too much has been shown to increase the risk of groin injuries.
- Specific exercises to strengthen the adductor muscles pre-season have been shown to reduce groin injuries. One of the exercises researchers have focused on is the Copenhagen Adduction exercise (see photo below). Completing this exercise 2-3x/wk, 3 sets, with 6-15 reps per side can significantly increase eccentric adductor strength, thereby reducing the likelihood of groin injuries.
- If the Copenhagen Adduction exercise is a little too advanced for you, other researchers showed benefits from strengthening with a theraband. See photo below. This exercise should be completed 3x/wk, 3 sets, 15 reps.
If you have been suffering from groin pain or want to prevent groin injuries, contact one of our therapists at Sheddon Physiotherapy and Sports Clinic, who will assess and treat your injury and get you back on the field pain-free.
Haroy et al., (2017). Including the Copenhagen Adduction Exercise in the FIFA 11+ Provides Missing Eccentric Hip Adduction Strength Effect in Male Soccer Players. A Randomized Control Trial. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 45;13;3052-3059.