Muscle Strains Part 2: The Adductors (Groin) and Hockey
Groin injuries are very common in vigorous sports such as wrestling, soccer, football, and especially hockey. In fact, about half of all muscle strains for hockey players are groin related. The mechanism for injury is not fully understood but we do know that it is not from contact, rather it happens in the powerful stride.
The adductors are a group of 7 muscles that attach the bottom of the pelvis to the femur, and the main function is to draw the femur in towards the pelvis. They also have other functions such as rotation and hip flexion depending on the position of the pelvis and femur.
It is thought that adductor strains occur when in the eccentric phase, or when the leg is extended back in the stride and the adductors are acting to decelerate the leg. Commonly, stretching is prescribed for adductor strains. However it is usually the case that a hockey player has an imbalance with strong hip abductors and weak (rather than tight) adductors. Additionally, hockey players tend to be tight in the hip flexors and lumbar musculature due to spending most time on the ice in a crouched position. This is known as lower cross syndrome. Lower cross syndrome causes and anterior tilting of the pelvis, changing the relationship of the adductors to the pelvis, placing them at risk for injury.
So what should we do to correct this pattern? Strengthen the adductors rather than lengthen them. Some gentle stretching to alleviate pain is probably ok, but I would stretch it sparingly. What needs to be stretched is the hip flexors and lumbar muscles. I would also recommend strengthening glutes and deep core muscles to help the athlete understand how to be in a more neutral position of the pelvis to prevent future injury.