Springbok midfielder, Jean de Villiers was ruled out of the Rugby World Cup tournament in France with a torn bicep muscle. He is on his way home for surgery. How common – and how serious – is this injury?
They’re seldom in the news, but arms are often injured. Apart from a torn bicep muscle, you can get contusions or bruising of the biceps or triceps – and repetitive injury of this nature, at the same place, can lead to complications such as myositis ossificans. This is when intramuscular bruising can harden and actually form small shards of bone-like substances that may need to be removed surgically.
According to the Sports Science Orthopaedic Clinic (SSOC), anyone can rupture their biceps muscle.
The long head of the biceps tendon is particularly susceptible to injury, as it travels through the shoulder joint to its attachment point. If it tears, you lose some strength in the arms, and you may be unable to turn the arm from palm down to palm up.
Because the torn tendon can no longer keep the muscle taut, the player may also notice a bulge in the upper arm (Popeye muscle). If the distal tendon tears, the patient will be unable to lift items or bend your elbow.
Clearly Jean de Villiers’ RWC was over when this happened to him.
Treatment can take a number of forms, depending on how serious the tear is – and how vigorous future needs are going to be.
Conservative treatment: Sometimes all that’s needed to treat tears in the proximal biceps tendons, is ice to reduce swelling, and anti-inflammatory medicines.
Rest: This is important for the affected muscle, although the shoulder should be mobile in order to strengthen the surrounding muscles. A doctor will set some exercises to help with this.
Surgery: Complete tears of the distal biceps tendon may require surgery to reattach the tendon to the bone. Though exercise is important to get back flexibility and motion in the arm, what De Villiers won’t like hearing, is that sport or weightlifting is not advised until up to six months after the surgery.
Prevention of reccurrence: The SSOC recommends the player should only return to practice and competition when all the symptoms of the injury are gone and the strength of the affected arm has returned to normal.
Sources: www.health24.com and www.ssoc.co.za
(Amy Henderson, Health24.com, September 2007)