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What Is Involved in Groin Rehab?

By Susan Abe
Updated May 17, 2024
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Groin rehabilitation, or groin rehab, refers to treatments administered to athletes or other patients who have sustained a sprain or tear to one or more of their groin muscles. Six muscles on each side of the groin — including the five adductor muscles named adductor brevis, longus, magnus, gracilis and pectineus — help pull the leg medially, i.e., toward the body's midline, in a movement known as adduction. When one or more of these muscles is torn or sprained secondary to overuse or athletic movement before a sufficient warm-up, the subsequent injury can range from mild discomfort to severe pain, bruising, marked inflammation and difficulty walking or running. Groin sprains are graded on a scale of 1 to 3, with the higher number denoting a more serious injury. The specifics of groin rehab, therefore, depend upon the sprain grade and may include rest, compression, ice, anti-inflammatory medication or even surgical repair.

For minor injuries classified as a Grade 1, immediate groin rehab interventions include elevation of the affected leg and application of ice to the area. Minimal use of the affected extremity is also recommended, to the extent of using crutches if necessary. Unlike other sprain injuries, post-injury stretches to the area during icing are not recommended due to the idiosyncratic reaction of the groin muscle fibers to this treatment modality. Australian sports programs also utilize immediate compression of the area with a compressive groin strap, while some US and UK programs utilize a hip compression wrap for up to three days post-injury. Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may also be used to decrease swelling in the area of injury and muscle relaxants may be prescribed to prevent muscle spasms.

Acute Grade 2 sprains may require other aspects of groin rehab in addition to those interventions recommended above for a less serious sprain. A physical therapy referral will probably be necessary and applied treatment modalities may include ultrasound and sports massage specific to this type of injury. Grade 3 groin rehab interventions may require surgical repair if all, or most, of one or more of the groin adductor muscles is torn. In this case, groin rehab will be a longer process and may not be approved to begin until the immediate post-operative period is over.

Groin rehab programs after treatment of the acute injury usually address groin strength and flexibility in addition to core strength. Among the first allowed exercises include groin adductor isometric exercises, in which a seated athlete holds a ball between his knees and intermittently squeezes the object for increasing periods of time. Limited periods on a stationary bicycle may be permitted. Under supervision and instruction, additional groin stretching and flexibility exercises are added to strengthen the area and prevent re-injury. Recovered athletes are always instructed to begin physical activity slowly with gentle stretching and application of heat to the area as necessary.

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