The groin refers to the region joining the upper thigh to the abdomen. Heavily used by many athletes, this region is susceptible to injury, just as many body parts are. Muscle strains, stretching or tearing of the muscle, are the most common form of injury to the groin area. While these injuries often heal on their own over time, they can be quite painful and take an athlete out of commission for some time.
Athletes engaging in high-contact sports or in activities that require explosive leg movements are most likely to suffer groin injuries. A groin strain, or groin pull, can happen in a few different ways, primarily through overuse of the muscle over a period of time, through a sudden contraction of the muscle, or a combination of the two. Athletes subject their bodies to significant amount of these types of stress. Sudden changing of direction, a quick cross-over step, jumping, a forceful kick of a football, and sprinting are all common culprits of groin pulls. Inadequate warm-ups and blows to the groin are also responsible for a fair number of groin injuries.
There are three degrees of severity of groin pulls. A first degree pull, the least severe, may not cause much pain or limit mild to moderate movement. A second degree pull tends to cause more symptoms, including more intense pain and further limitation of movement. A third degree groin pull causes pain while performing almost any movement. A third degree strain could also cause a sharp, stabbing pain in the groin; swelling or bruising that may take several days to develop; muscle spasms; and serious limitation of movements. In rare cases, a third degree strain can lead to serious and long-lasting complications.
While this all sounds horrible and scary, treatment is generally fairly basic. The most crucial step in treating a muscle strain is rest. Take five to seven days to allow your muscle to heal, then reassess your condition. Apply ice packs to the affected area for about 15-20 minutes, three to four times a day (remember not to apply ice directly to your skin – wrap your ice pack in a dish towel or something similar to prevent tissue damage). Use over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to treat the pain and swelling. Check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking these medications, especially if you have an existing health condition or are taking other medications – drug interactions are the last thing you’ll want to deal with while in pain. If symptoms do not begin to fade within two weeks or if you notice your muscles becoming significantly weaker, contact your doctor.