Biceps – the muscles located at the front of the upper arm, extending from the elbow, upwards to the shoulder. A torn or strained bicep, is an injury most often to the bicep tendon. The tendons at either end of the muscle can be torn, however, it is much more common for the tendon that attaches to the shoulder to tear or rupture. A complete rupture will cause the bicep tendon to detach from the bone. It’s vulnerable because it goes through the shoulder joint, which is used, and sometimes overused, by athletes in almost every sport.
The tendon near the elbow is torn less often, usually as a result of the arm having to absorb an unexpected or large amount of force for example, a snowboarder breaking a fall with their arms behind them or when applying excessive force during a pushing motion. When the tear involves the upper part of the biceps at the shoulder, the result is the same, but it’s more likely to be caused by overuse. Partial or complete tears in the tendon or muscle tissue are often caused by over use and the tissue becoming worn over time, on a person who is regularly active, meaning that a torn bicep is much more common in people over 40. In older athletes, a biceps tendon rupture might be associated with a tear in one of the four rotator cuff muscles.
The age range of people most likely to sustain a torn biceps muscle.
The percent of torn biceps that happen near the shoulder (rather than near the elbow).
Weightlifters are at high risk due to the extreme load regularly placed on the biceps. Sustaining a torn biceps whilst performing bicep curls is a classic example of how the injury occurs. Football players, skiers, gymnasts, tennis players, rowers, boxers, wrestlers, and throwing sports such as javelin, shot and discus are also at higher-than-normal risk of injury. Older athletes are more susceptible than younger athletes, and men on average are more likely to tear the biceps tendon than women.
• Sudden shooting pain in the upper arm, this will be more painful with tears at the elbow end of the bicep.
• Possible snapping sound.
• Loss of strength in the affected arm.
• Tenderness in the shoulder
• A bulge in the upper arm or a dent close to the shoulder
• Bruising from the upper arm to the elbow
• Difficulty or pain when trying to bend the elbow and rotating the forearm outward
• Muscle spasms
• Apply cold therapy for 15-20 minutes, 3-4 times a day for the first 2-3 days.
• Apply heat therapy for 15-20, 3-4 times a day after the first 2-3 days may relieve pain.
• Avoid any activity that causes shoulder pain or weakness.
• Complete tears require surgery. Partial tears may heal with treatment from a physio therapist.
• If a visual defect can be seen, you should see a doctor.
For a complete tear in which surgery is needed, return to full sports participation may take 4-6 months. Supervised physical therapy is typically advised.
Partial tears usually heal within 3-6 weeks.
Resume regular training only when you have normal shoulder and upper arm strength, full range of motion, and no pain.