Many athletes experience torn groin muscles at least once in their careers. Ice hockey and soccer players are particularly susceptible to this type of injury due to the nature of the movements that cause forceful adduction of the hip. Swimmers, dancers, and skaters are also at a higher rate of risk for a torn groin muscle.
If you treat athletes of any type, you are probably familiar with this kind of injury. You probably also know that many patients have their own ideas about treating a torn groin muscle, some of which are correct, and some of which are not.
Common Misconceptions About Torn Groin Muscles
Dispelling these common misconceptions will help groin injury patients to heal faster and potentially avoid re-injury:
The possibility of “walking it off”
Because torn groin muscles are such a common injury, many athletes believe they can “walk it off” or play through the pain. If function hasn’t been significantly impaired, it may be possible to continue playing sports, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. A torn muscle in any area of the body needs time to repair itself. This means limiting activity, resting, and allowing the body sufficient time to heal.
When the pain decreases, it’s fine to resume activity
Highly driven athletes often have a hard time staying on the sidelines, even if they just play for recreation. This leads to the assumption that a significant decrease in pain means the body is ready to resume the same level of activity. In fact, this may have the opposite effect, leading to increased damage of the original injury and a longer recovery.
Greater flexibility means less risk of injury
Many athletes believe that if they retain flexibility in the groin area, they are less likely to tear a muscle. However, a study titled “The Association of Hip Strength and Flexibility with the Incidence of Adductor Muscle Strains in Professional Ice Hockey Players” determined that there was no decrease in the number of groin strains in players with higher levels of pre-season adductor flexibility. On the other hand, muscle strength imbalance does play a role in groin injury prevention. According to the study, a player is “17 times more likely to sustain an adductor muscle strain if his adductor strength was less than 80% of his abductor strength.”
Heat is the best method for soothing groin pain
There is no doubt that applying heat is more comfortable than applying cold, especially in the groin area. However, therapeutic cold can actually be more effective than heat in treating a torn muscle. This is especially true in the first phases of injury recovery when inflammation is present. Applying heat to inflammation can actually exacerbate the injury since heat increases blood flow. In contrast, therapeutic cold can help reduce inflammation and dull the pain.
Helping Patients Avoid Common Mistakes
It’s important to communicate with your patients about these common misconceptions and the potential risks of doing too much activity too soon. Without discussing what they should and should not do, they may act on their assumptions and possibly prolong their recovery.
You can help them avoid these common mistakes by encouraging these behaviors:
- Ample rest after a groin injury
- Cold and compression to alleviate pain and swelling
- Physical therapy to strengthen and stretch supporting muscles
- Proper warmup and stretching before engaging in sporting activity
Providing your patients information about the best ways to promote healing from a torn groin muscle can help them have a successful recovery.
If you need a handy resource to reference or hand out to patients, download our free Guide to Accelerating Hip and Groin Recovery. Patients can learn more about pain relief methods that do not require medication as well as the activities that may help shorten their recovery times.