Adductor Strains Facts & Consequences: How to Prevent Groin Injuries

How to Prevent Adductor Strains in Hockey

Adductor strains (often also called "groin strains") are one of the most common injuries in ice hockey.

In a physically violent sport like hockey, you'd think injuries would result from heavy collisions with other players.

When it comes to adductor strains, that's not the case.

The vast majority of these injuries take place in non-contact situations.

What many hockey players don't realize is that your off-ice training plays a huge role in the prevention of groin pulls.

Before we discuss how exactly you do that with specific exercises, let's look at the research behind adductor strains.

(If you’d rather watch than read about ​how to prevent adductor strains… Check out the video below.)

Adductor Strains in Hockey: Frequency and Consequences

Adductor strains plague hockey players at all levels of play.

Here's some quick fun facts for you:

1. 43% of ALL muscle strains occur in the groin region.

2. Adductor strains account for around 10% of all injuries on the ice. [2]

3. According to a conservative estimate, each NHL team lose 25 man-games every season to groin and lower abdominal injuries. [3]

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4. Over 90% of groin and lower abdominal injuries in the NHL take place in non-contact situations. That means more than 9 out of 10 times players go down when there is NO CONTACT FROM OTHER PLAYERS. [4]

5. Most groin strains in hockey occur following a fast acceleration or change of direction. [3]

6. Following a hip injury, players are sidelined from the next 7 on-ice sessions (practice and/or game) on average. [3]

7. Players who experience an adductor strain have a 44% chance of repeat injury. [2]

8. The impact of groin strain injury at an elite level of play in hockey is significant and increasing. [4]

Despite reaching near-epidemic levels, I'm happy to say that this issue is almost non-existent among my hockey players.

I can count on one hand the times an athlete came to me complaining about mild groin pain and after showing them a select few exercises for the groin area, the pain went away within a few days.

A key reason why our guys stay healthy in the first place is we do a lot of heavy single-leg strength work in the gym. 

Why does that help prevent adductor strains?

Because adductor strength (or the lack of it) is the best predictor of future groin strain.

Athletes whose adductor strength is less than 80% of their abductor strength are 17 (!) times more likely to experience groin strains than those with a balanced adductor/abductor strength ratio. [2]

Simply put, you pull your groin because your adductor muscles are not strong enough to handle the forces generated on the ice or when sprinting on flat ground.

With that in mind, here are 3 great exercises to prevent (or at least reduce) the likelihood of adductor strains when you step inside the rink.

#1. Valslide Hip Adduction

You'll need a Valslide or furniture slider for this movement.

Place the slider under your foot and perform a lateral squat counting to three on the way down.

Keeping your leg straight, "pull" it back. You should feel the muscles on the inside of your upper thigh (adductors) working.

Once this variation becomes too easy, loop a resistance band around the ankle of your working leg. The band provides added resistance the closer you get to the finish position, making the concentric part harder.

Hit 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps.

#2. Lying Med Ball Adductor Squeeze

For this exercise, lie on your back with a med ball between your thighs. Be sure to use a softer med ball that has some "give" to it.

Lift your hips up by squeezing your glutes together.

From there, try to crush the med ball between your thighs. Hold the squeeze for three seconds before relaxing and bringing your hips down for a second.

Perform 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps.

#3. Good Girl Machine

Prevent adductor strains with the hip adductor machine

A lot of people bash this machine and for a good reason.

It's a favorite among middle-aged women trying to tone their thighs. Totally useless for that purpose.

But for adductor strain prevention and also as a rehab activity following a groin pull, it's one of the best exercises you can do.

Years ago, I used to rehab my own adductor strain with it. So I can vouch for its effectiveness.

If your gym has one of these machines, definitely take advantage of it.

To get the most out of the movement, you'll want to perform your reps in a specific way. Most people just sit there and bang out their reps without concentrating on strengthening the adductors.

I want you to take a different approach and slow things down so you can really focus on feeling the right muscles do the work.

For this, use a 3-4 second eccentric when you open up your legs, use one second to bring them together, then hold that legs closed position for another three seconds. Doing the math, a rep will take 7 or 8 seconds.

As you see, this is completely different than how most people use the good girl machine.

Do 4 sets of 15-20 reps at the end of your workout three times per week. Your adductors should be burning from the effort. 

Within just a few weeks, they'll be significantly stronger than they are right now and as a result, you're much less likely to suffer a groin pull.

If you have experienced groin pulls before or have any groin issues, be sure to check out my Bulletproof Hockey Hips program.

Proven program to prevent adductor strains

It contains dozens of exercises I use with my hockey players to (as you guessed it) bulletproof their hips against adductor strains and other common hip muscle injuries.

References

[1] ​​Mölsä J, et al. Ice hockey injuries in Finland: A prospective epidemiologic study. American Journal of Sports Medicine. 1997 Jul-Aug; 25(4):495-499.

[​2] ​Tyler TF, et al. The association of hip strength and flexibility with the incidence of adductor muscle strains in professional ice hockey players. American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2001 Mar-Apr; 29(2):124-128.

[​3] ​​Emery, CA. Risk Factors for Groin and Abdominal Strain Injury in the National Hockey League [thesis]. Calgary, AB: University of Calgary; 1999.

[4] Emery CA, et al. Groin and abdominal strain injuries in the National Hockey League. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. 1999 Jul; 9(3):151-156.

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Yunus Barisik
 

Yunus Barisik, CSCS, is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for an elite junior hockey organization based in Espoo, Finland. He has trained hundreds of hockey players at the junior, college and pro levels, including NHL Draft picks and World Champions. An accomplished author, Yunus has had articles published on top fitness and performance sites, including STACK and Muscle & Strength. He also wrote Next Level Hockey Training, a comprehensive resource for ice hockey players on building athletic strength, size and power, while staying injury-free.

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