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6 Ways to Prevent Hip Injuries in Athletes

Contributor: Scott Martin, MD
8 minute read

Most athletes experience their fair share of bruises, bumps, pains, aches, strains, sprains and even broken bones. Some injuries just require rest or ice to get you back on the field, while others, like hip injuries, can be notoriously painful and difficult to recover from, often responsible for significant time spent sidelined. Hip and groin injuries account for about 10% to 23% of all high-risk sports injuries, with female athletes more likely to suffer hip injuries as a result of playing soccer, running, doing yoga or participating in fitness activities. Male athletes tend to get these injuries as a result of playing sports like hockey, soccer, baseball or running.

Hip and sports injuries can be avoided (and reinjuries can be prevented) with proper prehabilitation and warm-up exercises. Through targeted strength training, proper stretching of the lower body, dedication to maximized recovery time and avoiding overuse, athletes can protect their hips, prevent sports injury, and maintain their sports for the long haul.

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Six ways to prevent hip and groin injuries, wear injuries and tear injuries as an athlete

1. Warm Up Properly

Make sure your muscles always have a chance to warm up before training or playing your sport. Walk quickly or do a light jog for a few minutes to get the blood pumping. Muscles that are frequently warmed up are less likely to develop an overuse injury.

2. Stretch Your Muscles Out

Once your muscles are warm, stretch out your lower body with some of these activation moves that keep the hip joints mobile while stabilizing the hip.

  • Side-to-side lunges: Start out in a wide-leg stance, with feet facing forward, about three feet apart. Lean to the right side while pushing your butt back. The left leg will be extended. Pause. Arms can be outstretched or rest on the bent thigh. Switch to the other side. Do at least 20 reps on each side

  • Clamshells: Lie down on your side, with one hand holding up your head and the other on your hip. Legs should be stacked on top of one another with knees bent at 45 degrees in front of you. Head, hips and heels should be in a line. Raise your upper knee as high as you can while the bottom knee remains on the floor and feet are together. Do 10 reps on each side and then flip over and repeat on the other side.

  • Knee pull-in plank: Start out in a full-body pushup position with arms extended. Bring your right knee as close to your right hand as you can and hold the stretch for a count of two, then release. Switch to the other side. Repeat a few times on both sides.

3. Strength Train

Try to work different muscle groups on alternating days when you're training. This can help reduce the chances of developing an overuse injury like a torn hip labrum.

Building strength in the adductors and abductors, as well as working on trunk rotation and extension exercises, can help reduce the risk of hip injury. Try some of these resistance activities to build strength and prevent injuries in the hips:

  • Trunk rotation: Lie on your back on the floor with knees pulled into the chest, and hold for 10 to 15 seconds before releasing. With knees at a 90-degree angle, use your right hand outside the left knee to guide the knees to the right. Pause, then use your abs and hips to guide the knees to the other side, switching hands. You can start with your feet on the floor in the beginning, before progressing to legs off the ground. Once you feel strong, extend the legs fully and try to get the feet as close to the ground as possible on each side. Do 10 to 20 reps on each side.

  • Floor bridge: Lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Squeeze your glutes and push your hips off the ground while pushing down on the heels. Drop the hips down and repeat for 20 reps. You can add bands around your thighs for an additional challenge, or hold a dumbbell on your hips while you push up.

  • Standing hip abduction: Stand on one leg, and, if you need to, hold onto a wall or chair if you need to for balance. Bring the other leg across the body and hold, then swing it out to the side and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 to 15 times. Switch sides.

If you're building up lean muscle mass, increase the amount of weight you use gradually each week in 10 percent increments until you achieve your strength goals.

4. Mix It Up

Change up your fitness routine with cross-training. Even marathoners take breaks from running by doing swimming, biking, walking and strength training workouts.

5. Know Your Limits

If you're experiencing hip pain, avoid doing deep squats, lunges, deadlifts and distance running, says Scott Martin, MD, Mass General Brigham Sports Medicine specialist and the director of Joint Preservation Service at Massachusetts General Hospital. "If you're susceptible to hip injuries or already in pain, these activities are going to make it much worse and are. going to actually accelerate the degenerative changes that occur."

Don't squat with heavy weights if you're in pain or experienced some kind of hip injuries in the past.

6. Recover and Recharge

Make sure you cool down and stretch for a few minutes after training, practice or a game and stretch. Allow plenty of time for recovery and rest after a particularly tough workout or taxing game. Remember that taking a day off allows your body to rest, heal and repair itself.