groin strain

Groin Strain

What is a groin strain?

A groin strain, also known as a pulled groin, refers to a tear in the adductor muscle located on the inside of the thigh. These strains can range in severity from mild to very severe and typically occur suddenly during physical exercise.

Medically reviewed by Dr Chaminda Goonetilleke, 7th Jan. 2022

What are the symptoms of a groin strain?

The following characteristics define a pulled groin:

  • Sudden onset of pain in the groin area.
  • Pain experienced when stretching your adductor (groin) muscles.
  • Discomfort while squeezing your legs together.
  • Swelling and bruising may or may not develop.

The sensation of a pulled groin depends on whether the strain occurs in the muscle belly or higher up at the tendon attachment to the pelvis. While running, twisting, or turning, you may experience sudden, sharp pain in the groin. The severity of symptoms can vary from mild discomfort to intense pain, depending on the extent of the injury.

Consequently, this condition may influence your capacity to keep playing or training. You may experience pain when you engage your groin muscles (adduction) against resistance. To illustrate, replicating the symptoms might be as simple as squeezing a ball between your legs.

How bad is my groin strain?

Groin strains fall into three categories, grades 1 to 3, according to their severity. If you experience groin pain, your doctor or physiotherapist will conduct several assessment tests to make a diagnosis.

Grade 1:

  • A Grade 1 strain refers to a minor tear with less than 25% of the muscle fibers damaged.
  • Discomfort in the groin area is present, but walking can typically be done with little or no pain.

Grade 2:

  • A Grade 2 injury indicates a moderate tear with damage to more than 25% of the muscle fibers.
  • Sudden sharp pain during exercise is experienced, and swelling and/or bruising may develop.

Grade 3:

  • Grade 3 groin strains are more severe, involving a complete (100%) or nearly complete rupture of the muscle.
  • Severe pain is felt at the time of injury, and walking properly becomes difficult.
  • Seeking immediate professional medical attention is recommended.


The groin (adductor) muscle group consists of five muscles: three short muscles (pectineus, adductor brevis, and adductor longus) and two longer muscles (gracilis and adductor magnus). The short adductor muscles and adductor magnus attach above the knee, while the gracilis inserts below the knee.

The primary function of the adductor muscle group is to pull the leg inwards towards the midline (adduction). These muscles also play a crucial role in stabilizing and controlling the pelvis during walking and running. As a result, they are particularly important in sports that involve rapid changes in direction.

How do I prevent Groin strains?

To mitigate the risk of groin muscle strains, consider the following measures:

  1. Ensure proper warm-up before engaging in physical activity.
  2. Strengthen weak adductor muscles through targeted exercises.
  3. Regularly incorporate stretching exercises, especially if you have tight adductor muscles.
  4. Allow sufficient time for full recovery from a previous groin injury before returning to intense activity.
  5. Be mindful that lower back injuries/dysfunction and lower leg biomechanics can increase the risk of injury.
  6. Groin strains commonly occur during activities like sprinting or quick changes in direction, as well as rapid leg movements against resistance (e.g., kicking a ball).
  7. Avoid overstretching the muscles, such as during high kicks in martial arts, as this can lead to torn adductors.
  8. If acute groin pain strikes you suddenly, you could have multiple damaged structures. Such a situation necessitates immediate medical attention (1).

Note: (1) We recommend seeking professional medical evaluation if you experience sudden, severe groin pain.

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