This muscle group on your inner thigh or groin area is the second most injured muscle group after the hamstrings and is a common injury among athletes. Regardless of athletic ability, anyone can pull their groin although there are a few risk factors that make some more vulnerable to this type of injury. It can be uncomfortable in mild cases and disabling in severe cases but usually improves with the correct management and rehabilitation.
Your adductor muscles run from your pubic area to your knee and are responsible for moving your leg towards your body (the opposite of doing a split). They also play a role is stabilising the pelvis when putting weight through your leg and help with hip flexion and rotation. Most adductor strains happen when there is a sudden acceleration in sprinting such as changing direction. Other less common ways of injuring the muscle are with jumping, overstretching, or kicking. Previous hip or groin injuries are the greatest risk factor, followed by age, weak adductors, muscle fatigue, decreased range of motion, leg length discrepancy, excessive pronation, and inadequate stretching. To prevent an injury from reoccurring, the underlying cause would need to be identified and addressed.
Usually, this type of injury occurs suddenly as opposed to having a gradual onset and a sudden sharp pain is felt in the groin or along the inner thigh. Often it will prevent any further activity and there may also be some bruising depending on the severity. Grade 1 strains cause some pain and tenderness, but the stretch or muscle tear is minor. Grade 2 causes pain, tenderness, weakness, and sometimes bruising. Grade 3 is a severe tear of the muscle, causing bruising and a lot of pain.
Other symptoms include:
- Limping or difficulty walking
- Tenderness along the groin or inner thigh
- Decreased strength
- Pain with squeezing the knees or feet together
- Pain with stretching the leg into a split
- Pain when lifting the knee
- Spasms on the inner thigh
Recovery time will depend on the severity of the injury. For Grade 1, recovery can take up to 2 weeks with normal movement such as walking resumed withing a few days. Grade 2 strains can take 3-6 weeks to heal while Grade 3 strains may take up to 4 months, especially if all or most of the muscle was torn. Returning to normal activities or sport to soon could lead to reinjuring the muscle and delay the recovery time, therefore it is vital to stick to the rehabilitation program. Treatment usually involves manual therapy such as massage or acupuncture which helps the tissue to heal followed by tailored exercises according to the severity of the injury. As mentioned before, contributing factors would also be treated and this may involve strengthening other areas in your body such as your glutes or your ankles. It is very rare to require surgery after an adductor strain.
Prevention is often the best cure. Professional athletes would have conditioning exercises included in their program to help prevent this type of injury as much as possible. For the average lay man, a good warm up before strenuous activity can go a long way. So spend some time limbering up before tackling that football or getting on the tennis court again.
- J Kiel, K Kaiser, Adductor Strain, StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493166/
- P Kloskowska, D Morrissey, C Small, P Malliaras, C Barton, Movement patterns and muscular function before and after onset of sports-related groin pain: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Sports Medicine. Dec 2016, 46(12), 1847–1867 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-016-0523-z