October 22, 2013
With news that Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is out for at least four weeks with a groin tear, let’s take a look at this injury, and what it will take to rehabilitate it.
Marcus Ohnemus, Sports Medicine Supervisor with ATI Physical Therapy, discusses this injury, and what athletes need to do to get back in the game.
“Groin injuries can be very complicated, and unfortunately, difficult to recover from. Normal recovery time can be anytime from 4 to 12 weeks, depending on severity and the specific muscles involved,” says Marcus. “The MRI performed on Cutler revealed what is being reported as a muscle tear of the groin, and the normal recovery time for this type of injury is 4 to 6 weeks.”
What is a Torn Groin Muscle?
The groin muscles are located where the abdomen meets the leg, and the muscles of the inner thigh are attached to the front of the hip. Groin tears occur when these muscles are overstretched because of extreme force.
This injury will be given a grade, according to the amount of damage:
Grade 1: Mild over-stretching or slight tearing of muscle fibers. The muscle is painful, but has near normal strength.
Grade 2: Moderate tear of a larger amount of muscle fibers. More tenderness and pain than Grade 1, loss of strength and sometimes bruising.
Grade 3: Tear of muscle is severe, and can be a complete muscle tear. Bruising is present.
- Hearing a “pop” in the groin following time of injury
- Sharp pain
- Leg weakness
Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy
When muscle fibers are torn, they heal with a complicated matrix of tissue within the muscle called scar tissue. During this initial phase of healing, 7 to 10 days, you must allow for this scar tissue formation while working on gentle range of motion without stressing the muscle.
After the healing process, the second phase of rehabilitation begins, in weeks 1 to 3, with strength training for the groin muscles and all the muscles surrounding the hip and abdomen.
Once adequate strength is achieved in the injured muscle, then functional rehabilitation will begin to work on sport specific skills and change of direction activities. This will take place at weeks 3 to 6. In Cutler’s case, once he can pass a functional test consisting of all the activities a NFL quarterback must be able to perform, he will usually be allowed to return to practice and then games.
Physical therapy will help in the healing process by reducing pain, returning full motion in the leg, hip and thigh, and ultimately improving strength by utilizing appropriate exercises assigned by a physical therapist.
Surgery can be needed to repair groin injuries, but this is a rare occurrence.
If you are experiencing groin pain following an injury, stop by any ATI Physical Therapy for a Complimentary Injury Screening. ATI can evaluate your injury and provide you with options for continued care. You'll be seen by a licensed provider who will provide appropriate recommendations.