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Compression assisting groin pain.

Wow – what a couple of months we have had due to the COVD19 virus!  I am sure you, like me, have had a big disruption to your life while we have adjusted to restrictions and working from home.  I hope wherever you are in the world, the curve has flattened, and restrictions are easing and making life a litter easier.

Please find my belated next edition of Dr Carolyn’s Research Corner.  This article was published in 2019 and follows on from the theme of the Men's article (see the first edition of my Research Corner) exploring if applying compression to the pelvis of football players helps to reduce groin pain.  Please send questions or feedback to me at


Otten, R., Stam, S., Langhout, R., Weir, S., & Tak, I. (2019). The effect of compression shorts on pain and performance in male football players with groin pain: A double blinded randomized controlled trial. Physical Therapy in Sport, 38, 87-95. doi: https://doi-org/10.1016/j.ptsp.2019.04.013

Why did the researchers do this study?

Groin pain is a common problem for both professional and recreational athletes who play sports that involve repeated kicking and change of direction. Compression garments are worn by athletes in these sports for reasons such as perceived improved performance, reductions in symptoms such as pain and reduced risk of sustaining an injury.  There have been a small number of research studies that have investigated the effect of compression garments for reduction of groin pain and the risk of sustaining an injury, but no studies had been published that compared the effect of three different types of garments on pain and performance; targeted high compression, low compression and normal sports clothes.  Therefore, the researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial to investigate the effect of targeted high compression shorts, low compression shorts and normal sports clothes on pain and performance in football players with groin pain.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers recruited 34 male recreational football (soccer) players who had at least a 4-week history of groin pain and were still playing football with their groin pain. The participants acted as their own control and undertook physical tests three times wearing the targeted high compression shorts, the low compression shorts and normal sports clothes.  The targeted high compression shorts had regions of high compression around the waist/upper pelvis areas and additional regions of high compression through the front and the back of the thigh. The low compression shorts had uniform low compression throughout the garment, without any regions of high compression. During all the physical testing the participants wore long sports pants, so the researchers did not know which compression shorts the participants were wearing, or if any at all.

The participants were asked to complete a questionnaire on their symptoms, do three physical tests and wear the compression shorts for a period of 2-weeks each during training and matches. The three tests were a squeeze test, an agility test and a maximum ball shooting test.  The squeeze test measured muscle strength and groin pain while the participant was lying on their back and was asked to squeeze a muscle strength dynamometer placed between their ankles.  For the Illinois agility test, the participants were asked to run around cones in a specific pattern as quickly as possible and their time and pain levels were recorded. The maximum ball shooting test involved the participants kicking the ball as hard and fast as possible into the goals and the speed of the ball was recorded.  The participants were then given the two different compression shorts and were asked to wear one for 2-weeks during training and matches, then the other for 2-weeks and record pain levels and comfort.

The researchers then compared the results for the three different garments for the physical tests and the two compression garments for the questionnaire, and for the training and playing fortnights

What did the researchers find?

 When participants wore the targeted high compression shorts, they had reduced pain on the squeeze test, increased speed during the agility test with less pain, less pain on shooting for goal, and less pain during both training and matches. The targeted high compression shorts also had an improvement on the questionnaire results for activities of daily living, symptoms and sport/recreation. 

What does this mean?

Compression shorts with targeted high compression regions around the waist/upper pelvis and through the thigh area can help football players with groin pain.  The reasons these garments may help are by taking the strain off the main adductor muscle and its attachment at the pubic symphysis, increasing proprioception (awareness of the body and where it is in space) and improving pelvic stability. No matter what the mechanism, it is apparent that targeted high compression shorts are a valuable addition to the sports kit for football players with groin pain.


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