In the Training Room: Colts FB Chris Gronkowski

On October 25, Colts FB Chris Gronkowski broke the rules with team tradition, and announced that he would be going on injured reserve because he had torn his right pectoral muscle.  Later that day, he treated us all to a pre-surgery picture of the injury.  This post explores the injury, the repair required, and the post-operative rehab that Gronkowski will likely undergo.

Chris Gronkowski, FB Date of Injury: October 23, 2011 Nature of Injury: Torn pectoral muscle Typical Rehab Process/Duration: Surgery to reattach the tendon, rehabilitation of elbow/shoulder to regain strength, range of motion.  Return in 8-12 months.

A “pec tear” is the common name for a rupture of the pectoralis major muscle, the muscle (or its tendon)  that reaches from the sternum to top of the humerus (upper arm bone) and covers the chest wall.  Here’s a good, short video describing the injury. The pectoralis major serves many purposes, including rotating and controlling various motions of the upper arm, and to push the arms away from the body, as in a bench press. The pectoralis major can suffer three types of rupture:  Type 1 is when the tendon has ruptured from the bone (at the armpit), Type 2 is a rupture between the tendon and the muscle, and Type 3 is a rupture of the muscle itself. Given two facts that we know about Gronkowski’s case, I assume that his was a Type 1 injury.  First, he tweeted that he was “pre-surgery,” indicating that surgery was imminent.  But surgery is generally not indicated for Type 3 injuries, as they are considered “almost impossible to repair” (side note: there’s a web site dedicated to pectoral muscle tears?) .  Second, the picture Gronkowski tweeted clearly showed bruising on his upper arm, which would indicate a rupture located there rather than on the muscle body.  While not conclusive, it leads me to believe that this is the likely injury. The surgery involves re-anchoring the torn tendon back to the arm bone, and can often be successful long after the original injury.  Following surgery, Gronkowski will likely start elbow and shoulder exercises to regain range of motion and strength. Prognosis: According to this 2007 study of 13 professional athletes who experienced this injury, the average time to return to their sport was 8.5 months.  If there are no complications and Gronkowski can remain fully dedicated to his rehab program, he could be available to participate in training camp next year.

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