Footballers are at risk for groin injuries as a result of the amount of agility and dynamic movements that occur during football. From minor strains to more severe and persistent conditions, these issues can impact both performance and long-term well-being. Groin injury prevention for football can be made simple. Here are some common causes of groin pain in footballers and some groin injury prevention strategies.
With our experience across elite football programs such as the Brisbane Roar and Young Matildas, our Brisbane based Football Physiotherapy experts will guide you through everything you need to know about groin injury prevention for football.
Causes of Groin Pain in Footballers
Groin pain and groin injury prevention has always been difficult due to the complexity of accurate diagnosis. A consensus statement from the worlds leading sports injury experts on groin pain simplified the way in which we discuss groin pain (1). There are now 5 main entities commonly to describe athletic groin related pain in footballers. These are as follows:
- Adductor-related pain
- Inguinal-related pain
- Iliopsoas-related pain
- Pubic-related groin pain
- Hip related pain.
Possible causes of groin pain and their locations around the groin and pelvis.
Common Groin Injuries in Football
Muscle Strains: The constant demands of football including sudden accelerations, decelerations, and changes in direction can lead to strains in the adductor or hip flexor muscles of the groin. Kicking is also an explosive action that places high forces on the muscles of the groin. Groin muscle injuries can occur rapidly and are often felt at the time of injury. A Sports Physiotherapist can determine which muscles are injured with a thorough examination.
Sports Hernia: Footballers are also susceptible to sports hernias, where the soft tissue in the groin area undergoes stress, causing pain and discomfort.
Hip Impingement: Abnormal bone growth in the hip joint can lead to friction and discomfort, particularly during kicking or lateral movements. However, it is also important to consider that the majority of footballers tend to have the changes to the hip joint due to a long history training. These changes are common and may be related to your pain.
Osteitis Pubis and other bone stress: Inflammation of the pubic symphysis or bone marrow oedema can result from repetitive stress on the pelvic area, causing persistent groin pain. This can be painful and problematic for footballers and can limit your ability to train and play for months.
Groin Injury Prevention Exercises for Football
One effective method for preventing and managing groin injuries in footballers is the incorporation of the Copenhagen Groin Exercise into a weekly injury prevention routine. Developed by experts in Denmark, these exercises specifically target the adductor muscles and promote strength and stability in the pelvic region. This groin injury prevention program has been shown to reduce the self-reported prevalence and risk of groin problems in male football players by up to 40% (2).
Figure 1. (A) Starting positions and (B) ending positions for the different levels of the Adductor Strengthening Exercise. Source: Harøy et al., 2019.
Starting from the easiest exercise in Figure 1 (above) these exercises include:
1. Adductor Leg Lifts
Position yourself on your side.
Lift your top leg up into the air while keeping the pelvis still.
Hold for a few seconds before releasing.
2. Copenhagen Exercise (Short lever)
Lie on your side with your bottom leg bent for support.
Support the knee of the top leg.
Lift your top leg, bringing it forward and then down towards the ground.
Return to the starting position and repeat.
3. Copenhagen Exercise (Long Lever)
Start in a side plank position with your elbow directly beneath your shoulder.
Support the ankle of the top leg.
Lift your hips, creating a straight line from head to heels.
Elevate your top leg, holding the position for the desired duration.
Repeat on the other side.
|Sets per side
|Repetitions per side
The exercises outlined above has been shown to be highly effective at reducing groin pain. The key take aways are that there does not need to be a large amount of these exercises completed to see results and to reduce groin pain in football (3). This prescription is a great starting point, but its important to make sure that your groin injury rehabilitation is monitored closely by a Brisbane sports physiotherapist to ensure best results. It is important to consider your overall training loads and how these exercises may be incorporated into your program.
In addition to targeted exercises, consulting with a physiotherapist is important for a comprehensive approach to groin injury. Physiotherapists can conduct biomechanical assessments, provide manual therapy and design personalised injury rehab programs that integrate Copenhagen exercises for optimal results.
(1) Weir, A., Brukner, P., Delahunt, E., Ekstrand, J., Griffin, D., Khan, K. M., … & Hölmich, P. (2015). Doha agreement meeting on terminology and definitions in groin pain in athletes. British journal of sports medicine, 49(12), 768-774.
(2) Harøy J, Clarsen B, Wiger EG, et al The Adductor Strengthening Programme prevents groin problems among male football players: a cluster-randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2019;53:150-157.
(3) Sadigursky, D., Braid, J. A., De Lira, D. N. L., Machado, B. A. B., Carneiro, R. J. F., & Colavolpe, P. O. (2017). The FIFA 11+ injury prevention program for soccer players: a systematic review. BMC sports science, medicine and rehabilitation, 9(1), 1-8.