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Athletic Training

Bicep tear

10/05/2007

Question:

While competing in strongman contest I tore the right inner head of my bicep. The tendon is OK but the muscle tore and bled. The bottom portion of my muscle is soft but the pain is more on the inside of the body. I plan on starting to train again after three weeks layoff, is this a good idea? What would you recommend in the healing process because I would like to compete again in 5 months. I am also working with an ART doctor in breaking up the scar tissue.

Answer:

First, I need to clarify that we can't give medical advice to patients over the internet because we haven't examined you and therefore can't do any more than guess at what might be wrong.  My comments here are not a replacement for seeking qualified care and it DEFINiTELY looks like you need to seek qualified care. A torn (strained) muscle is no small matter, particularly for a strength-power athlete and particularly if the tear is large enough to compromise the structural integrity of the muscle. 

The biceps brachii muscle has a single tendon at the elbow and two tendons (heads) at the shoulder.  The inner (short) head attaches to a projection of bone on the front of the shoulder blade (scapula) called the coracoid process.  This head helps not only with elbow flexion but also with horizontal movement of the arm across the chest and with shoulder flexion (moving the arm up like you are throwing underhand).  If you've torn it, you will typically have pain and weakness with all of these.

A minor strain can produce bruising, but will often resolve by itself with time, rest, and eventually a regular exercise program.  If you have a significant tear, it needs to be evaluated by an orthopedist.  Breaking up scar tissue is not enough. 

From your description, my guess is that your tear is is more than minor and you should seek qualified medical attention.  Resuming aggressive training on it has the potential to make it worse... perhaps even requiring surgical repair.  Typically, significant muscle injuries heal slowly, taking many weeks or months before full training can be resumed.  Appropriate care can help to speed that up, but it can't be fixed overnight.

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Response by:

Mark  A Merrick, PhD, ATC Mark A Merrick, PhD, ATC
Associate Professor at the School of Allied Medical Professions
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University