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Originally published Monday, March 26, 2012 at 7:15 PM

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How to avoid the groin pull

The best way to prevent a groin pull is to strengthen and stretch the muscles of the inner thigh.

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One of the most painful, frustrating and lingering athletic injuries is a groin pull. You may remember that golfer Tiger Woods' decline began with a groin pull, a problem that can last for many months and easily repeat once it happens.

A groin pull is a tear or sprain to one or more of the adductor group of muscles in the hip, groin and thigh area. The adductors are fan-shaped muscles that begin deep within the body. They pull the legs together and help stabilize the hip joint. If one or both legs are extended outward past its normal range of motion, like in an accidental split on wet grass, the adductor will instantly contract, trying to prevent the split. But a forceful outward movement of the thigh can yank on the muscle, spraining or tearing it.

Even after the pain of a groin pull goes away, tissues can still be inflamed, ready to jump back into agony mode at the slightest sign of overuse. The pain can radiate down the leg, making any active movement of the lower body impossible. As an athlete, it will weaken you considerably.

The best way to prevent this hobbling injury is to strengthen and stretch the muscles of the inner thigh. Doing this will also lessen the severity in case you do get a groin pull.

Start with the piece of equipment at the gym that's always a source of humor, the adductor machine. Start with your legs spread comfortably; there should be no pain or pressure in your groin or thigh. Begin with a light resistance as you pull your legs together. After every two or three workouts, you can slightly increase both the resistance and the range of motion of the machine.

If you don't have access to an adductor machine, you can simulate one with elastic cords or tubing. Tie a loop at each end of the stretchy stuff, hook one loop over a doorknob, bring the tubing under the door and put your foot through the loop on the other end. Stand further away to increase the resistance. The only problem with this method is that it's not as stable as a machine, and it doesn't allow you work the abductors, the opposing muscles which move the legs outward. Both muscle groups must have a balance of strength for injury prevention.

Every adductor resistance workout should be followed by a stretching session to make the muscles more pliable and flexible; thus less likely to suffer a serious sprain or tear. One good stretch is to sit on the floor and put the soles of your feet together. Place a hand on each ankle, and gently press your knees down with your arms until you feel the stretch in your groin. While sitting on the floor, also place your legs as wide as is comfortable, then lean from side to side.

For another groin stretch, elevate one leg on some stairs or a low bench, with the other leg back, so that you're in a lunge position. Lean forward until you feel the stretch. all groin stretches should be gentle and slow. Never bounce, and stop immediately if you feel even the beginning of painful pressure.

Stretching and strengthening your adductor (and abductor) muscles will give more force to all your athletic leg movements; and help protect you from the dreaded groin pull as well.

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WinaSturgeonistheeditoroftheonlinemagazineAdventureSportsWeekly(adventuresportsweekly.com).Forthelatestintrainingandworkoutinformation,goto:adventuresportsweekly.com

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