If you play soccer, your risk of groin injury is relatively high, as studies show that more than half of all soccer players injure this area during their lifetime. This research also reveals that male soccer players have groin injuries almost three times as often as female players (29% versus 10%, respectively).
Preventing injuries to this area of the body can keep you on the field and out of pain. What are some things you can do to reduce your risk of groin-related problems?
To answer this question, we reached out to Dr. Norm Eng, DC, team chiropractor for Atlanta United and partner at Georgia Sports Chiropractic. We also contacted Dr. Rhode Gabrielle Mesidor, DC, who supported the USA teams in the 2016 Olympics and played soccer during medical school. Here is what they had to say.
Build Your Core
"Your core is the power and balance center of the human body," says Dr. Eng. When muscles within your core are healthy, it allows other areas of your body to work better. Your legs and arms are able "to do their job to the fullest when your core is firing on all cylinders," says Dr. Eng.
Does your current training program build core strength? If not, it may be time to talk to your coach or trainer to learn which exercises can be added. For instance, planks can help make your core muscles "bulletproof," says Dr. Eng.
Dr. Eng further shares that working your adductors—the muscles on the inside of your thighs—is also important in maintaining groin health. "One simple exercise is to put a soccer ball between your knees either seated or lying down," says Dr. Eng. "Squeeze the ball for five seconds and then release. Repeat this for ten repetitions and do three sets three times per week."
Include Deep Tissue Work in Your Training Program
Dr. Mesidor stresses that engaging in "good deep soft tissue work" can also help the muscles and tendons in the groin area functioning normally. If you have a groin injury, deep tissue work can also help it heal better by increasing blood flow to that area and reducing inflammation. One option is to get a deep tissue massage in this area. Another is to see a doctor who performs deep tissue work via IASTM.
IASTM stands for instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) and involves applying a particular metal or plastic tool to the injured area to break down any scar tissue that may be preventing the muscles, ligaments, or tendons from moving regularly. IASTM helps restore your range of motion, so you're able to move around freely without feeling tension, pulling, or pain.
Physical therapists, chiropractors, and orthopedic specialists can all practice this treatment option with the proper training.
Allow Adequate Recovery Time
"Players need to understand the significance of recovery to allow muscles and the joints to heal and recharge," says Dr. Eng. Not allowing enough recovery is one of the main reasons groin injuries occur. "Sometimes, you have to turn your body off for a short period of time with something as simple as rest for a day," Dr. Eng says.
Look at your current training and game schedule. Do you have enough time built in for your muscles and joints to recover adequately? More specifically, is your playing and practice time balanced with time off? If the answer is no, setting aside some designated downtime can keep your groin area healthy, durable, and injury-free.
Get Regular Chiropractic Adjustments
Both Drs. Eng and Mesidor agree that regular chiropractic adjustments can help protect soccer players from sustaining a groin injury.
Dr. Mesidor explains that the pelvis is connected to the femur, which creates the hip joint. If there are problems in this area, it can affect how well you can move your lower body, how much force you have available in these movements, and more. This is because "the bone controls the muscle and not the other way around," Dr. Mesidor says.
So, if the skeletal system is out of place, you'll feel it in a variety of areas in your lower body, from your groin to your foot. Getting regular chiropractic adjustments helps keep your body aligned.
These adjustments also help provide a proper joint range of motion, says Dr. Eng. "This ensures that your joints are moving to their fullest potential," he says, "so there isn't unnecessary strain on the muscles. Also, sports chiropractors can do specific muscle work to help speed up the healing of the tissue."
Additional Groin Injury Prevention Tips
Dr. Eng shares a few other practices you can do to help prevent soccer-related groin injuries. They include:
- Stretching and/or foam rolling at home for 30 minutes a day "keeps the body from stiffening up."
- Eating nutrient-rich food, so your body has the vitamins and minerals it needs to get and stay healthy (fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and high-quality carbs like brown rice, sweet potatoes, and quinoa)
- Letting your coach, athletic trainer, and parents know if you think you've injured your groin so you can get medical treatment if necessary.
Although playing soccer puts you at a higher risk of a groin injury, you can lower your risk by engaging in these simple actions. Actions that keep you playing the sport you love without having to play in pain.