Keys to Preventing Groin Injuries in Hockey

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Hockey is a fast, high contact sport, but you don't need to be on the receiving end of a crushing check or brutal slash to get injured. According to Dan Stein, a licensed physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist in Cleveland, "Adductor strains are among the most common injuries in ice hockey."

The groin comprises muscles in the inner thigh—the adductors—that allow the legs to move toward the center of the body. These muscles are engaged when the leg is pulled back to the center of the body after a stride, and they are stretched when the leg extends out.

Problems arise when the groin muscles cannot handle the force applied from repeated activity. Stein says, "Groin strains occur from the excessive forces generated during the acceleration [stride] and deceleration [return to start position] phases of skating"—a direct result of a strength imbalance between muscles that push against the ice to propel the body forward. "A study of NHL players found athletes were 17 times more likely to have a groin strain if the groin muscles were less than 80 percent of their abductor [glute and outer hip] strength," adds Stein.

Stein recommends that hockey players take a proactive approach to groin injuries by altering their strength training programs. "A program including a warm-up, strengthening exercises and sport-specific training targeting these muscle groups appears to be an effective method for preventing adductor strains," he says; and he advises performing a warm-up that includes biking for five to 10 minutes, stretching and dynamic exercises.

Spider-Man Stretch

  • Assume Push-Up position
  • Drive left knee up to left armpit, then place left foot flat on ground outside left hand
  • Maintaining position and keeping right leg straight, activate right glute and push both hips forward until right knee almost touches ground
  • Hold stretch at point of tension for three counts, then shift hips back and bring left leg back to start position
  • Repeat on other side; alternate sides for required reps

Sets/Reps: 3x5 each leg

90-90 Groin Isolation Hold

  • Standing in doorway straddling door frame, raise right knee until thigh is parallel to ground
  • Place pad between inside of right thigh and door frame; grasp door frame with hands for support
  • Apply force into door frame with right leg for specified time
  • Perform set on opposite leg

Sets/Reps: 3-4 sets for 6-12 seconds each leg

Sumo Squat

  • Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulders with toes pointed out
  • Drop into bottom of Squat position
  • Keep heels flat and butt back
  • Use upper torso to push knees out
  • Rest in lower position

Sets/Reps: 2x10-15

Side Lunge

  • Assume athletic stance, holding dumbbells at shoulders
  • Step to the side, bending leg but keeping other leg straight
  • Return to start position
  • Repeat for specified reps, then perform using opposite leg

Sets/Reps: 2x10-15 each side

Stein also suggests performing exercises on and off the ice that strengthen this crucial muscle group to equalize strength between the adductor and abductor muscles.

Ball Squeezes

  • Lie on back with arms to sides and knees bent
  • Place small physioball between knees
  • Engage groin muscles to squeeze physioball with knees, holding for two to three seconds
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 2x10-15

Seated Hip Adduction

  • Assume position on hip adduction machine
  • Slowly squeeze knees together, stopping before machine pads touch each other
  • Return to start position and control, repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 3x10

Adduction Against Gravity

  • Lie on side with left leg straight on ground and right knee bent with foot on floor
  • Raise left leg so foot is approximately 12 inches off ground
  • Lower leg with control; repeat for specified reps
  • Perform on opposite side

Sets/Reps: 2x12 each side

Pull Togethers

  • Skate at a slow pace around outside of rink
  • Assume ready position when approaching blue line while gliding
  • At blue line, spread feet to slightly wider than hip width
  • Engage groin muscles to pull feet together
  • Repeat in and out pattern until opposite blue line

Sets/Reps: 8x blue line to blue line

Slide Skating

  • Skate at a slow pace around outside of rink
  • Assume ready position when approaching blue line while gliding
  • At blue line, skate without lifting feet off ice until opposite blue line

Sets/Reps: 8x blue line to blue line


Tyler T., Nicholas S, Cambell R, Donellan S, & McHught, P. The effectiveness of a preseason exercise program to prevent adductor muscle strains in professional hockey players. The American Journal of Sport Medicine. 30(5): 680-683

Tyler T, Nicholas S, Campbell R, et al. The association of hip strength and flexibility with the incidence of adductor muscle strains in professional ice hockey players. The American Journal of Sports Medicine.  29 (2): 124-128

Photo:  Len Redkoles/Getty Images

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