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Instep Dance Magazine Articles

Reprints of monthly column as first appearing in Instep Dance Magazine (no longer in print).

December 2002

Groin Pulls

by Rick Allen, DC

"Better health leads to better dancing."

Let's continue exploring injuries that may occur when dancing, especially with athletic dance sport. There is a good explanation of groin pull injuries in Conquering Athletic Injuries, from which this material is drawn.

Mechanism of Injury

Groin pull injuries involve acute tears of muscles fibers located on the inner aspect of the thigh, notably, the adductors of the leg. A pull is a lay term for a tearing of a muscle and is technically known as a strain. Strains vary in severity from grades 1 and 2, representing small fiber dis-ruption, to grade 3, a complete and severe injury.

Muscle pulls are characterized by sudden pain in the area, usually during a moment of dynamic stress, as when the athlete suddenly sprints or spreads the legs to reach for a ball. The athlete is usually stopped from continu-ing play, and within 24 to 48 hours notices warmth, swelling, and often, bruising-which show up in the inside of the thigh along the margin of the pelvis and crotch. This bruising often gravitates down the inner thigh toward the knee, creating concern to the athlete be-cause it seems the injury is spreading. This concern is unfounded; in reality, the bruise's apparent spreading is due only to gravity pull-ing on the bleeding site of the trauma.


The treatment for pulls is the same as for any other muscle injury: RICE (rest, ice, com-pression, and elevation). Anti-inflammatory herbs or medication may help ease any discomfort. The decrease of pain and swelling may be followed by return to ac-tivity. The waiting period in a grade 1 strain can be as short as a week. However, a grade 3 strain may require 6 weeks or longer before a return to stressful sports activity.

Most important in the recovery of strains or pulls of muscles is the rehabilitation and fur-ther protection during return to activity. Run-ners and field athletes who suffer groin injuries need to wrap the thigh carefully with elastic wraps in combination with commercially available Neoprene@ thigh sleeves. To counter-act the distracting pull of the muscles during activity and to give dynamic support, locally applied pads are helpful. Icing after activity may be required for several months. Heat is generally not used during the acute phase when swelling and tenderness are apparent; however, as swelling disappears and the early stages of inflammation are no longer present, using a moist heat pad in the evening may be a practical measure to relieve aching and discomfort.


Muscle injuries invariably imply a preexist-ing vulnerability or improper conditioning. The adductor muscles are responsible in run-ning activity for assisting in the change of direction from side to side, as well as in straight-ahead running. This stress must be prepared for by proper strengthening exer-cises, involving lifting weights in a cross-legged fashion or involving resistance machines now currently available in many health clubs, in order to strengthen the inner aspect of the thigh. A simple measure is to squeeze a small ball between the knees.

Flexibility is also critical in avoiding further injury. Because injured muscles especially tend to shorten during the healing process, they must be stretched gradually to proper resting length to avoid reinjury and cramping.

Returning to activity requires a cautious program of increasing exposure to the stresses of the chosen sport, usually over a period of several weeks. Small amounts of discomfort during a return to activity are to be expected.


"Conquering Athletic Injuries" from the American Running and Fitness Association, of which Dr. Allen is a member.

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