What causes adductor strains after ice skating?
Groin strains, officially known as adductor strains occur when the inner thigh muscles are overstretched or overexerted. This is commonly an overuse injury that occurs with more explosive sports such as hockey, speed skating, soccer, and American football.
It is a common misconception that a “muscle imbalance,” will cause this to occur, but there is no evidence to date to support this.
It is possible that if you have a significantly weaker adductor in the compartment on one side that you may be at a higher injury risk due to increased demands on a weaker muscle, but this is only conjecture.
For our complete guide to groin strain/adductor strain rehab, please read this article.
What can I do to relieve the pain from my groin after ice skating?
Initially, resting from the activity that has caused the symptoms is essential, usually for 2-3 days, while using ice, heat, and/or electrical stimulation to help to relieve initial symptoms. NSAIDs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, may also be prescribed by your doctor if your symptoms are severe.
After symptoms have reduced a few points on the pain scale, it is reasonable to start back to light activity.
Any activity that you are undertaking should not increase your symptoms one-hour post activity, or 24 hours, over ~ 2-3 points from what your baseline pain levels are. If you do an activity and then an hour and 24 hours later, symptoms are significantly worse, you’ve done too much.
This is different for each person, but approximately three days after the occurrence of groin pain from skating you should start on a rehabilitation program that includes a mixture of the below exercises.
Start with bodyweight squats to pain tolerance. If you are having trouble modifying your workouts please read this article. It gives eight different methods of modifying your exercises.
After bodyweight squats are tolerable, start to add weight. Observe yourself in the mirror to ensure that you don’t have an excessive hip shift over to the unaffected side. Some shifting is normal but excessive to the unaffected side should likely be corrected.
Lunges or split squats
The same advice is true here as it is with lunges. Start with body weight and then work yourself up to heavier weights over time.
Work up to holding these for 45 seconds on each side. Three times each side.
These can be done every other day and there are many variations. If you can’t do the full variation, please follow the instructions in this video from E3 Rehab. They are excellent physical therapists and have made a very detailed youtube video about adductor strain rehab.
This is a great choice of exercise because you can slowly increase the difficulty over time.
Sidelying hip adduction
This one is a bit easier to do as you don’t need equipment. It can be a great place to start when all other movements are very painful.
Sports specific treatment
This is a higher level movement once the symptoms are well controlled. It’s important to retrain the adductor muscles to rapidly contract under load, as this is very important while skating.
Instead of just doing regular lunges or split squats on the ground, you can elevate your front and back leg off of the ground ~ 6-12 inches (12-30 cm) and perform the lunges. This will stress the inner thigh muscles as they become hip extensor muscles when the hip is in a flexed position (knee towards chest)
Using plastic slider or a sock on a hardwood floor, you can practice not only increasing your hip abduction range of motion, but also the length that is tolerated by your inner thigh muscles. This also teaches your adductors to work under load.
Dynamic Copenhagen plank
This is another great one and is also known as an adductor side plank. E3rehab has an excellent video on how to progress this exercise that i’d recommend watching. Link is below.
Watch this youtube video for a great breakdown on skating biomechanics! (not my content)
Why are ice skaters and hockey players at greater risk of groin strains?
Due to the nature of ice skating and the pushing off using large amounts of extension and abduction forces, it’s no surprise that additional strain is placed through the adductor muscle group.
The adductors, when the hip is flexed forward (in front of the body), pre-push off during skating, acts as a hip extensor. In plain English, the inner thigh muscles help push the leg behind you during skating.
Additionally, when you are bringing your back leg forward after push-off, you are using both your psoas muscle as a primary hip flexor, as well as certain adductor muscles as the adductors become hip flexors when the hip is in an extended position.
If you’ve ever felt sore in your inner thighs after a sprint practice on dry land, this is why.
In any sport that places more emphasis on certain muscle groups or joints there is always going to be an increased injury risk. The good news is that there is a lot that can be done to address this.
How to Prevent Future Groin Strains
The most important thing you can do to prevent future groin strains is to focus on strength training, focusing on the lower body, and making sure to incorporate adductor-specific exercises at least two times per week.
Similar to how nordic hamstring curls reduce the rate of injury among soccer players and other sprinting athletes, Copenhagen planks and other adductor-specific exercises can help to reduce the risk of groin strains.
We can never completely eliminate risk however we can certainly reduce it.
Is ice or heat better for a groin strain?
Either one works for this, you just need to try whichever one feels most comfortable for you. You can also alternate between the two if that feels best, too.