Go To:
  • ALT+A Toggle Accessibility Menu
  • ALT+H Home
  • ALT+1 Navigation
  • ALT+2 Main Content
  • ALT+3 Footer

Ask the Docs | Bicep Tendon Tear

Ask the Docs
Posted April 23, 2007

  • AthletiCo Bulls' Injury Report

    Patient Question:
    I am 52 years young and consider myself in good health. My weekly workout routine consists of running an average of 8 to12 miles and lifting weights 3 to4 times a week. Lately, however, I have been experiencing a pain in the deep inner fold where my forearm and bicep meet. It really hurts whenever I do curls or other activities that put additional strain on the area. I would imagine that the pain is possibly associated with a tendon tear. What are your thoughts and what besides not exercising could help ease the pain?

    Dr. Nikhil Verma:
    There are numerous ways that an athlete can partially tear or rupture their bicep tendon. Lifting or moving a heavy box, taking a hard hit in a football game or overexertion in the weight room. There are also different types of bicep tears. A proximal bicep tendon tear occurs in the tendon that attaches with the shoulder. This is the most common type of bicep tear and can usually occur without major trauma and in basic overuse activities, especially for persons over the age of 40. A proximal tear is accompanied by loss of strength in your arm, difficulty rotating the shoulder joint (extending down the arm), and pain near the shoulder joint.

    The second type of a bicep tear is the distal bicep tear. This occurs in the part of the tendon that attaches to the patients elbow. These types of ruptures are usually more severe and mainly occur with a trauma/force injury. Activities in which a distal tear are common include a hard hit in a football game, falling while skiing, and attempting to lift a heavy object. Common conditions of a distal tear include the inability to lift everyday items, pain near the radius (elbow) joint, and the inability to bend the elbow.

    Dr. Verma
    Dr. Verma
    Treatment Options:
    It is difficult to provide an athlete with an accurate assessment of the bicep tear without an exam. If the tear is minor and it is considered an overuse type injury, it can be treated with relative rest from the offending activity (curls, isolated bicep activity) along with ice and anti-inflammatory medication. The patient may perform other nonpainful exercises during this rest period such as aerobics.

    If the pain is more severe, it may be a case of a tendon rupture. Diagnosing this type of injury requires imaging such as an MRI scan. If the MRI returns with a full tear diagnosis, surgery is necessary to reattach the tendon to either the shoulder or elbow bone. Physical therapy exercises can begin, with the orthopaedic surgeon’s permission, as early as two weeks after surgery. However, heavy lifting and contact sports may be restricted for up to eight months.

    For more information about Dr. Verma and the Sports Medicine physicians of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, call 877.MD BONES or visit them online at www.rushortho.com.

    The information contained on this page is intended only for general public education, and is not intended to serve as a substitute for direct medical advice. This information should not replace necessary medical consultations with a qualified orthopaedic physician.



    Ask the Docs | More Patient Questions

    Tibial Plateau Fracture
    Over the past few months I have been experiencing pain below my left knee while running. After a collision in my basketball game last week, I heard a “pop” and experienced a shooting pain through my knee and down my shin. My knee is now extremely swollen. My family doctor ruled out major ligament damage and has sent me to get X-rays and a MRI. What could this be? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Jammed Finger
    While playing basketball this week I jammed my finger trying to catch a hot pass. The finger is now tender, swollen, and painful when I bend it. Could this be serious? Should I have X-rays? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Hip Pointer
    While playing basketball this weekend I collided with another team member and injured my hip. Now my hip is tender and painful when I walk. Could this be serious? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Groin Strains
    I have been experiencing pain in my inner thigh. There is also some bruising, swelling, and discomfort when I play basketball and push off my right leg. How long do you think I’ll need to rest before it heals? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Ankle Sprains
    While playing basketball last week I came down wrong on my foot and I think I rolled my ankle. How can I tell if the injury is serious, and when can I return to normal physical activity? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Hip Bursitis
    While playing basketball last month I fell and landed on my hip. It didn’t seem to hurt much then, but as time has passed I have had an increasing pain at the point of my hip. Is this something that will go away on its own? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Plantar Fascia: A Common Basketball Foot Injury
    My heel bothers when I play basketball, and it really hurts when I wake up in the morning and stand up after rest. Is this some type of bruise, or is it a more serious injury? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Wrist Contusion
    While playing basketball this weekend I collided with another team member and injured my wrist on another player’s knee. My wrist is now swollen, black and blue, and tender to the touch. Could this be serious? Should I have X-rays? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Mallet Finger
    While playing basketball last week I jammed my finger on the ball. My finger is still painful and swollen, but only at the fingertip. I also have trouble straightening the tip of my finger. Do you think anything is broken? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
    When I raise my arms over my head for a rebound or reach to block a shot, I’m having pain in my shoulder. What could be causing this pain? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Shin Splints
    I’m an active runner and have been experiencing pain in my shins. If I stop training, it goes away but comes back as soon as I resume my running activities. Am I suffering from shin splints? If so, what can I do to treat them other than rest? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Piriformis Syndrome
    I’m a runner, and lately I’ve been experiencing pain radiating down the back of my leg. It hurts worse when I sit or climb stairs. What is causing this? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome (ITBS)
    I’m a semi-active cyclist, more of a weekend warrior, really. I have been experiencing sharp burning pain on the outside of my left knee, and even occasionally in both knees. What is causing this pain? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Basketball Injuries in the Female Athlete:
    I’ve heard that female basketball players are more frequently injured than their male counterparts. Is there any truth in that? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Aging and Basketball Injuries:
    I’m a 40-something who still enjoys playing competitive basketball. In my advancing years, should I be worried about any increased health risks from playing this demanding sport? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Stretching Before Basketball:
    I recently pulled my hamstring during a game even though I stretched thoroughly before playing. Some of my teammates rarely stretch and they don’t seem to get hurt. Does stretching really do any good? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Torn or Damaged Cartilage:
    After I play basketball, my left knee swells considerably. With ice and rest it mostly goes away, but the swelling comes right back when I play again. What causes this? Is there anything I can do about it? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    ACL Tears:
    While playing basketball last week, I felt a “pop” in my knee when planting my foot. I now have a considerable swelling and the knee feels unstable. Do I have ligament damage? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Jumper’s Knee:
    When I take a jump shot, drive to the basket, or jump to grab a rebound, I often feel a sharp pain behind my kneecap. What causes this? How can it be treated? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.