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Adductor Tears

What are the adductors?

The adductor muscles, collectively known as the adductors, are a group of muscles located on the inner side of the thigh. These muscles play a crucial role in hip adduction, which involves bringing the leg toward the midline of the body. The primary adductor muscles include the adductor longus, adductor brevis, adductor magnus, and gracilis, each originating from the pelvis and inserting onto the femur. Additionally, the pectineus muscle, although not strictly an adductor, contributes to hip adduction and is often considered part of the adductor group. The adductor muscles work synergistically with other muscles of the hip and thigh to stabilize the pelvis, control leg movements, and maintain balance during various activities such as walking, running, and jumping. Strong and flexible adductor muscles are essential for optimal lower limb function and athletic performance, while weakness or injury in these muscles can lead to pain, instability, and functional limitations in the hip and groin region.

What are adductor tears?

Adductor tears, also known as groin strains or groin pulls, are common injuries affecting the adductor muscles. These injuries can occur suddenly or develop gradually over time, leading to pain, swelling, and functional impairment. This comprehensive discussion explores the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for adductor tears, providing insights into the management of this prevalent musculoskeletal condition.

What causes adductor tears?

Adductor tears typically result from excessive or sudden stress placed on the muscles of the inner thigh, particularly during activities involving rapid changes in direction, acceleration, or deceleration. Common causes of adductor tears include:

  1. Sudden Movements: Rapid changes in direction, sudden accelerations, or abrupt decelerations during sports activities such as soccer, hockey, basketball, or sprinting can overload the adductor muscles, leading to muscle fiber damage and tearing.
  2. Overuse or Repetitive Stress: Repetitive kicking, cutting, or pivoting motions, common in sports like soccer, football, or martial arts, can strain the adductor muscles and predispose individuals to overuse injuries or chronic muscle imbalances.
  3. Poor Conditioning: Inadequate warm-up, insufficient flexibility, muscle weakness, or poor biomechanics can increase the risk of adductor tears by compromising muscle function and reducing the muscles’ ability to absorb and dissipate mechanical stress.
  4. Muscle Fatigue: Prolonged or intense physical activity without adequate rest or recovery periods can lead to muscle fatigue and decreased neuromuscular control, increasing the susceptibility to adductor injuries during subsequent activities.
  5. Direct Trauma: Direct blows or impact to the inner thigh region, such as collisions with other players or objects, falls, or contact sports-related injuries, can cause contusions, bruising, or tears in the adductor muscles.

What are the symptoms of adductor tears?

The symptoms of adductor tears can vary in severity depending on the extent of muscle damage and the underlying cause of the injury. Common signs and symptoms associated with adductor tears include:

  1. Pain: Localized or diffuse pain in the inner thigh or groin region, particularly during activities that involve adductor muscle contraction, stretching, or palpation. The pain may range from mild discomfort to severe, sharp pain, depending on the severity of the injury.
  2. Swelling and Bruising: Swelling, inflammation, or bruising over the affected inner thigh or groin area, typically developing within hours to days following the injury. Swelling may be accompanied by localized warmth, redness, or ecchymosis (bruising) due to tissue inflammation and microvascular damage.
  3. Decreased Range of Motion: Stiffness, tightness, or limited range of motion in the hip joint or inner thigh muscles, particularly during activities that require hip adduction, flexion, or rotation. Individuals may experience difficulty performing movements such as squatting, lunging, or lifting the leg.
  4. Weakness or Instability: Weakness, instability, or a feeling of “giving way” in the affected hip or groin region, especially during weight-bearing activities or movements that involve changes in direction or acceleration. Muscle weakness may impair functional performance and increase the risk of recurrent injury.
  5. Pain with Palpation: Tenderness, sensitivity, or discomfort with palpation of the adductor muscle bellies or insertion points along the pubic bone or femur. Pain may be elicited with direct pressure or stretching maneuvers, such as the resisted adduction test or passive hip abduction.

It’s essential to differentiate adductor tears from other causes of groin pain, such as hip joint pathology, inguinal hernias, pelvic stress fractures, or genitourinary conditions, through a thorough clinical evaluation and diagnostic workup.

How are adductor tears diagnosed?

Diagnosing adductor tears requires a comprehensive assessment, including a detailed medical history review, physical examination, and diagnostic imaging studies. Dr. Shane J. Nho will ask about the onset, duration, and mechanism of injury, as well as any aggravating or alleviating factors associated with the groin pain. Diagnostic considerations for adductor tears include:

Physical Examination

A thorough physical examination may reveal localized tenderness, swelling, or bruising over the affected inner thigh or groin region. The healthcare provider may assess muscle strength, flexibility, and functional mobility through various range of motion tests, resisted muscle testing, and special orthopedic maneuvers.


Palpation of the adductor muscle bellies, tendon insertions, and surrounding soft tissues can help localize the site of injury and identify areas of tenderness, muscle spasm, or fibrotic adhesions. Palpation may elicit pain or discomfort along the adductor longus, adductor brevis, adductor magnus, or gracilis muscles.

Diagnostic Imaging

  • Ultrasound: Musculoskeletal ultrasound can provide real-time imaging of the adductor muscles, tendons, and adjacent soft tissues, allowing for dynamic assessment of muscle architecture, integrity, and vascularity. Ultrasound can detect muscle fiber disruption, hematoma formation, or tendon avulsions characteristic of adductor tears.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): MRI is considered the imaging modality of choice for diagnosing adductor tears due to its high spatial resolution and multiplanar imaging capabilities. MRI can delineate the extent of muscle injury, identify associated soft tissue pathology (e.g., hematoma, edema), and assess for concurrent intra-articular or intra-abdominal injuries.
  • X-rays: Conventional radiographs may be obtained to evaluate for bony abnormalities or avulsion fractures at the adductor muscle insertions, particularly in cases of acute traumatic injuries or suspected avulsion injuries. X-rays can help rule out other causes of groin pain, such as pelvic fractures or degenerative joint disease.
At a Glance

Dr. Shane Nho

  • Board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon
  • Team Physician for Chicago Bulls, White Sox, Steel
  • Performs more than 700 procedures each year
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