The Toronto Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan is on the shelf indefinitely after slipping on the court, tearing the adductor longus tendon in his groin area. While the severity of his tear has not yet been announced, tearing a tendon—a strip of collagen that attaches muscle to bone—is one hell of a painful injury. On top of that, it’s also one of the hardest to recover from. Recovery times vary from around three weeks for milder groin tears, up to seven weeks for more severe kinds. That said, groin injuries are far from unpredictable. To keep you out of the medic’s office, here’s how you can prevent (and recover from) a strain or tear of your own.
Don’t work too hard, you hear?
Remember how we said that the groin tendon itself does little more than connect bone with muscle? The risk of injuring a tendon comes down to preventing the muscles it supports from breaking down. Overexertion of the five muscles between your pelvis and knee is the most common cause of extreme tightness and, eventually, a strain (more commonly known as a “pull”). You’ll probably notice it—the pain can vary from mild and only during exercise; to intense tenderness in the area; to sharp, stabbing pains in the inner thigh. If you fight through the hurt, your tendon will eventually give in and tear.
Strengthen surrounding muscle groups
The best way to prevent leaving your groin muscles open to injury is by exercising your upper legs, plain and simple. A variety of conditioning exercises are necessary to keep the injuries at bay (as mentioned before, five muscles are in play). Try a combination of wide-stance squats, leg raises and side lunges to ensure not only are your legs strong, you don’t create any muscle imbalances.
Most groin injuries occur during what the medical community calls “quick deceleration”—that is, when landing from a jump or, as in DeRozan’s case, a slip-and-fall accident. One way to mitigate life’s curve balls is by increasing your leg’s range of motion and flexibility. Active release techniques and dynamic stretches are your best friends for that. Once more, be sure to consider all of your upper leg muscle groups, not just those immediately in the groin area.
Test yourself for injury
How do you tell the difference between the normal kind pain that comes with a game well-played and a sign of something worse? One way to test your groin for a minor injury like a strain is by raising the knee of the suspected leg. If it feels remarkably weak in the hip or feel pain, chances are you’re experiencing a muscle strain. You can also test for pain by squeezing a basketball between your knees from a prone position on your back.