John Gallucci Jr. on Groin Injuries – On what they are, what to do if you are injured and can they be prevented?
Groin injuries are not uncommon among youth and professional soccer players. Groin pulls happen more often than many people realize. In fact, Lionel Messi might be out for three weeks after suffering from a groin strain during Barcelona’s match last Wednesday against Atlético Madrid which ended with a 1–1 draw. Messi left the match in the 59th with the injury to his right leg. In the USA, there are 7 professional soccer players in the MLS with questionable groin injuries according to the MLSsoccer.com Injury Report for September 26, 2016 and there are three pros playing in the English Premier League (EPL) who are in the “physio room” with groin injuries as well.
Kids who play soccer and football, hockey often suffer from this type of nagging which can be difficult to diagnose. A groin injury can occur when the soccer player kicks the ball and meets resistance from a defender, for example, or another player who is also trying to kick the ball in another direction. Even jumping up for a header, in rare cases, can cause a groin injury. The typical groin injury is usually more of a “strain” and although we see the pros and usually most youth soccer youth soccer players stretching on the field before the game starts, this pre-game routine can only protect players from this common injury if done properly.
Here is our expert on injury prevention, John Gallucci Jr., the MLS Medical Coordinator for more than 600 professional soccer players on groin injuries.
The often painful and always dreaded groin injury:
Injuries to the adductor muscles – or groin – occur commonly in the soccer athlete due to the function of this muscle group and the mechanism of injury.
What is the adductor muscle? The 4 adductor muscles that make up the groin function to bring the leg across the body, as performed during passing, shooting and moving laterally on the field. Due to the repetitive use of these muscles while participating in soccer, adductor muscle strains have become commonplace but they tend to result in a tedious healing process due to the nature of the sport.
A muscle strain occurs when the muscle is stretched beyond its normal limits either from doing too much too soon, an improper warm-up session, overworking a particular muscle group or by acute trauma.
Acute muscle strains that occur to the groin area can result from a rapid kick either in the beginning of the game if the athlete is improperly warmed up or at the end of the game when the musculature is fatigued and the body is dehydrated.
Chronic or overuse muscle strains occur in the groin as a result of the same motion- running, passing, cutting, running, passing, cutting- over and over again without proper management and rest. Actions that may cause the athlete pain while suffering from a strain are side-to-side motion, sudden stopping and changing direction, bringing the leg all the way back and out to the side while winding up to kick the ball and contact with the ball while swinging through your kick to the front.
As mentioned above, recovering from a muscle strain can be tedious and can last anywhere from 1 week to a couple of months depending on the severity and athlete adherence to the treatment plan.
Most times, soccer athletes try to come back from their groin injury way too quickly because they do not understand the importance of rest and gradual return to play.
Treatment of a groin should begin with the RICE protocol (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) and should not involve heat until pain and swelling has subsided.
Also, most times athletes will try to stretch or roll out a strained muscle because the muscle feels tight. Although these are great treatment options down the road in the healing process, they can cause further injury if performed too soon.
Stretching should not be integrated into the treatment plan until the athlete can move about through their daily activities with no pain. In regards to return to functional activities, such as running, sprinting, and kicking the ball, return should be gradual and if pain is felt at any step of the program the athlete should stop the activity and try again the next day. Lastly, strengthening of not only adductor musculature but also the entire lower extremity will aid in preventing further injuries down the road.
Exercises to incorporate:
- Forward Lunge
- Side Lunge
- Body Squat
- Calf Raises
- Skater walks/bounds
- Clam Shells
- Glute Bridges (Single or double leg)
Photo Credit Lionel Messi: Marco Iacobucci EPP / Shutterstock.com