Straining a muscle can occur if the muscle (group) is weak or if it is overused.
The groin is a common site of muscle pulls, strains, and tears in hockey players.
We do see groin pulls in other sports as well.
Potential causes of groin pulls are not the actual event that causes the tear, but the patterns of use leading up to it.
Let’s look at hockey and it starts to become clear as to how these injuries happen frequently.
When hockey players skate, their glutes are responsible for extending the hip and abducting the hip. Unlike other sports, the glutes get a ton of work in hockey players. Slower players may not get good glute involvement because they are not completing the stride but that is a different story.
The opposite muscle group to the glutes is the groin. The groin is responsible for adducting the hip and a little bit of hip flexion. These two actions are seen when the leg is being recycled back toward the body during skating.
When we stride, the glutes need to push the ice away to propel the skater forward while the groins need to help bring the leg back from extension. This means that the glutes need to work a lot harder to do their job (moving the entire athlete) than the adductor group (bringing one leg, against no force) back to the body.
The groin becomes weak and the hip is imbalanced due to this.
There is a second potential injury mechanism for the groin and it has to do with the way an athlete starts and changes direction. Hockey uses a lateral deceleration to stop the body. Basically that means that a skater is going, you yell stop, and they will be facing right or left when they are done.
Hockey players also get started by using the crossover step, in most cases. The crossover happens when the back leg comes over the front leg in order to push forward.
When we are using the crossover step the groin can become vulnerable. This is especially true when an athlete always uses the same stance to do their crossover. The front leg becomes vulnerable because that groin is always doing all of the work.
My dominant stance was right leg back and crossing over the left. I was also a left handed shot. This puts the left groin at risk for injury because it gets overused, while being weak.
It may have been a comfort thing but that was always my go to side for changing direction.
What can we do about it?
Training the groin can be done in a few ways. I like exercises that uses the groin as a stabilizer as opposed to a prime mover. This will train endurance and control that is needed for support while skating.
- Groin Activated Bridges
This is a good exercise because we are training the glutes and groin simultaneously. Focus on squeezing the ball between the knees and raising the hips up. It should take about 5 seconds from the floor to extension, including a 3 second hold at the top. This is more of a groin exercise than a glute and is isometric.
- Half Kneeling Groin Pallof
Getting into the half kneeling groin position is going to first and foremost help with mobility. After that, the groin will be firing almost the entirety of the exercise to help develop stability. This also helps train the core so it is a win-win-win.
To get in position, get on one knee and have the opposite leg straight out the side. Hold that and perform any core stability exercise.
- Slideboard Reverse Lunges
When we slide back on the board the groin has to stabilize. This exercise really gets the muscle going.
If you want to learn more about how to use the slideboard for hockey training, click here. This is a guide for how to build strength and how that will make a hockey player faster. It is completely FREE and contains a 12 week conditioning program. You don’t want to skip over this opportunity.