From Bodybuilders to Boxers: Repairing Pec Tears!


BALTIMORE, Md. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — A torn pectoralis major muscle, or pec muscle is an injury that many of us have probably not heard of. But it’s a serious injury striking boxers, pro wrestlers, body builders, and even a growing number of military servicemen. It’s a condition that requires surgery, therapy and time, to put a patient back together.

Oscar Puerto is passionate about staying in shape. The high school football standout and former boxer had been on an aggressive weight lifting program to build body mass. Six months ago, it caught up with him during a bench press.

Puerto said, “I’m on my last set, and I feel my shoulder telling me, I should stop now. I didn’t listen. I thought I had one more in me.”

Puerto felt sudden pain, and lost control of his arm. After the injury, this is what his chest looked like. He had no idea he had torn his pectoral muscle, the large muscle that goes from the chest wall through the arm.

John-Paul Rue, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon from Mercy Medical Center said, “It tears off and they feel a pop and they have severe bruising and swelling. Then they have a deformity because the muscle tendon unit has pulled off.”

(Read Full Interview)

Dr. Rue is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports injuries. To fix the deformity, Dr. Rue made an incision in the chest wall and stretched the muscles back into place, anchoring them to the bone.

“They should return to full functionality ,100 percent, within six months,” Dr. Rue said.

Eager to get back into shape, Puerto started back too early, and developed a hematoma that created a crater-like hole and required another surgery. This time, he’s following doctor’s orders, doing nightly exercises to improve his range of motion. He’s looking forward to going back to the gym when his body’s ready.

In addition to athletes, Dr. Rue treats military servicemen at Walter Reed Medical Center. He says the pec tear is now one of the top three non-battle injuries that requires surgery. Dr. Rue says many servicemen, especially those stationed overseas are using their downtime to stay in top shape and may be overtraining.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Robert Walko, Editor; Kirk Manson, Videographer.

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REPORT:       MB #4559

BACKGROUND: The pectoralis major muscle, or most commonly its tendon that attaches to the arm bone, can rupture. Athletes often call this a pec rupture or torn pec, but it is more accurately called a pectoralis major muscle rupture. Pectoralis major ruptures are uncommon injuries that occur almost exclusively in men between the ages of 20 to 50. While partial tears can occur, these are less common, and usually a complete rupture of the tendinous attachment of the muscle to the bone occurs. The pectoralis major muscle is the large muscle just in front of the chest wall. There are two parts of the pectoralis muscle, the pectoralis major, and the pectoralis minor. The pectoralis major is the larger of the two and works to push the arms in front of the body, such as in a bench press maneuver.


SERVICEMAN INJURIES: This injury also commonly occurs in the armed forces. John-Paul Rue, MD, an Orthopedic Surgeon at Mercy Medical Center explained, “We see it a lot in our military personnel particularly overseas because when they’re not in their battle situation, they’re often working out and getting strong. It’s in fact still one of the top three or four types of nonbattle injuries that requires a serviceman or woman to come back to the United States for surgery. Now it typically happens in males, very infrequently in females.” When it comes to fixing the problem, Dr. Rue says typically a nonoperative approach without surgery is not going to result in the outcomes that they want from a strength standpoint, from an appearance standpoint and for functionality.

(Source: John-Paul Rue, MD)

TREATMENT: Dr. Rue says the process starts with getting imaging, such as an MRI, to confirm. “That helps give us a road map of where to see it and how much retraction. We make an incision in the skin. We find the tendon and basically pull it back over to the bone and anchor it securely to the bone,” said Dr. Rue. He says the surgery takes about an hour and a half, “One of the hardest things we have is ensuring compliance. And that’s because that’s just the nature of the people who get this type of injury. So we like to protect our repair with a sling and protected motion for about six weeks. Then we start a graduated progression with physical therapy for motion and strength. By about three months out from this surgery, most patients have full motion and strength.”

(Source: John-Paul Rue, MD)


Dan Collins, PR


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Doctor Q and A

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