Lesson Learned (?)

Bulging Bicep
Bulging Bicep
Want to have a big bicep like in my picture? Here’s how you too can go to the emergency room and have one too…

Naples City Tournament

Fred Drilling and I played our one-match final this morning vs. a not “tournament level” team and coasted to a love and love victory.

In the singles, Fred had not yet played his semi-final match, but was doing that right after we won the doubles. He asked if I would “stick around” and then play our 70s singles finals after his singles match, which he again won love and love.

Feeling Fine

Since or doubles was so easy (and I was scheduled to pack the van to go north the next day) I agreed. His match took only just over 35 minutes; so we started our finals right away.

He was serving at 3-1 when I hit a cross-court forehand (the stroke that pained me before)… and TORE MY BICEP TENDON.

Next Steps

I called Dr. Havig’s office from the tennis court; but they “were too busy to see me.” So I went to the ER to see if they could/would do anything. The best thing they did for me was to call back to the surgeon’s office and say “see this guy as soon as possible.”

So… an MRI tonight … doctor’s visit tomorrow morning … and PROBABLY having surgery down here in the next couple of weeks. We shall see what they say.

How are the shoulder tears treated?

According to The Cleveland Clinic
Some people may opt for non-surgical treatment of a tear of the long head tendon, although they might never regain all of their arm’s original strength. However, for those who want all of their arm strength back, surgery may be the best option.

Surgery to reattach a long head tendon is quite safe, with few complications. It can return nearly all of your arm strength and function, and a re-tearing of the repaired tendon is rare. If you decide to have surgery, your will need to do flexibility and strengthening exercises to rehabilitate your shoulder. This can last for several months.

Has anyone gone thru the surgery/recovery?

P.S. Let’s see how it feels to play tennis lefty!!

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22 thoughts on “Lesson Learned (?)

  1. George, getting old SUCKS. I am very sorry to read about your bicep misfortune. Get well soon. – Marty

  2. George, I suffered the same injury while playing in a men’s doubles final at Bonita Bay. I finished the match, with some pain. My doctor suggested to not have surgery. It took several months to fully recover, regaining about 85 % of my original strength. To my surprise I developed a better serve particularly to the deuce court. Good luck with your arm.


  3. My shoulder surgery was “exploratory” because the orthopod was unable to determine the cause of the pain, as things looked normal on the MRI scans. I asked him (a tennis friend) if he would go in there and look, anyway, as I was tired of serving underhand and would like to have my overhead back. He agreed to do it.

    He showed me a photo of my shredded biceps tendon (long head) – looked like a rat’s nest – and said he just snipped the remaining little bit still attached to my shoulder and let the rest of it drop down inside my arm. I haven’t missed it and it healed *much* more quickly than the shoulder surgeries which involve screwing things back onto the bones.

    He also cut a cm or so of bone off the two joints in there, explaining that it would make it less likely than any spurs would saw through any of my rotator cuff tendons down the road. All has been fine for a few years now (shoulder-wise).

    I was practicing serves two weeks after the surgery. I then stopped doing that for a couple of weeks as I preferred being able to sleep at night. 🙂

    Good luck with whatever you decide to do. My bias is against tacking it back in place.

    Kevin, that encouraging! Thanks, George

  4. Sorry to hear about your injury. One of my teammates on my softball team tore off his bicep tendon last October 2015 at the Nationals. He elected the surgery. He has a strange contraption on his are that limits the extension of the arm with a dial at the elbow. over time he will be able to extend it fully and expects to be close to 100% (in June 2016). If you tear it off a second time you are screwed and you should follow your doctor’s and PT persons directions to a tee. The key is doing the rehab that they tell you to do and don’t go beyond. Many people don’t do the amount of rehab needed and they suffer as well.

    Good luck and a speedy recovery. It will be a race to see if you can play in Newk’s camp.


    Mike, thanks for the information. Since I came to camp the year I had my prostate cancer, I am betting you will see me there in October! George

  5. Sorry to hear of your misfortune . Good luck with the surgery and recuperation.?

  6. I tore the same tendon in my bicep in 2013. It was a cold day in February, 2013 and I got out of the car to play a tournament in Del Ray Beach. I had no sweatshirt or warm-up clothing and my opponent warmed me up by hitting long and hard. He had been there an hour and I just got out of the car after a one hour plus drive. Something snapped and it has remained snapped since, Amazingly, this injury has not affected my tennis game. I will avoid surgery at all costs. (Married to an M.D.)

    JB, I like the sound of that! Thanks. George

  7. George sorry to here about your injury but it’s not so bad being a lefty you won’t have to serve into the sun if you play with a righty. Best of luck jeff

    Jeff, i am already planning to try out being a lefty! thanks, george

  8. My friend who is also 65 in Jeffersonville, IN tripped over a pipe a month ago and fell on his outstretched right arm tearing the same tendon. He had the surgery a month ago and is just beginning PT. Hope your healing goes well.

  9. George, I’m so sorry to hear of your injury and want you to know I’m thinking of you and wishing a speedy recovery! Sorry (and happy) to report I only broke my arm which gave me great slicing ability. Take care!

    Christine, thanks and good luck with the arm! george

  10. George, sorry to hear about your injury, enjoyed our on court battles this year. Look forward to your recovery and being on the court with you in the fall. All the best in your recovery.

    Ed, i enjoyed playing with and against you. thanks, george

  11. George,

    Hope that you have a speedy recovery.
    I pulled a calf muscle a week or so before Newk’s camp last year and really missed attending. Hope to see you there this year. Go Wankers!

    Dave, let us bothe be healthy and be there!george

  12. George, I’m very sorry to hear about your injury. As we age, these long rehabs are becoming all too frequent. In terms of “Lessons Learned (?)” I’m interested in your opinion as to whether, in retrospect, the cortisone shot in your shoulder was a good idea. Did it mask a serious problem?

    We’re all pulling for you and wish you a speedy recovery.

    Keith, that is my guess. Thanks, George

  13. Sorry to learn about your injury. Get references for the best PT person and stay patiently on program. With your determination you will be back on the court.

    Good Luck!

  14. I had rotator cuff and bicep tendon surgery 5 years ago. I did the rehab work religiously and have had no pain since. You will be back better than ever.

    Andy, Thanks.

  15. George! the only other person I knew who tore a bicep was a bodybuilder lifting insane amounts of weight. This isn’t supposed to happen to tennis players. Good luck with the (likely) surgery, and if you need help converting to lefty (even temporarily), you should probably contact Angus!

  16. Hi, George –

    You’re in compoany!

    I played a hard morning match May 10 in Morristown against a Jim Rauch who has lost 25 pounds this past winter and he played even with me – I won 7-5, 7-6 (4). Two hours later, behind 1-2 in doubles, I went for shot behind me on the forehand side deep and tried for a shot I had no chance of returning. I let out a “yelp” and dropped my racket – it turned out to be a torn biceps, though I didn’t know that until I returned to New London and saw a PT therapist about a tender hamstring on May 16 – I took my shirt off and she saw the “popeye biceps”! I had gone to PT in Morristown right away and she told me that it was a muscle or tendon injury. I withdrew from the semi-finals of the Morristown tournament; I iced frequently and tried to practice a little volleying with 2 players after a day’s rest. I could hit mostly with no pain, except that near the end, hitting a half-volley on my backhand and trying to drive it deep – it was VERY painful in the biceps. So, I reluctantly withdrew from the National Hard-court the following week in Laguna Hills, CA. I see an orthopedic surgeon June 1`. I was told by another PT therapist, who had been working with me to strengthen my shoulder and saw me on May 19 – that a torn tendon or ligament is generally not operated on surgically. I have not had an MRI done and hope that will happen when I go for my appointment June 1. I am hoping that I’ll be able to play in New Haven (Super Cat II) on June 2-6 and play two tournaments in Europe June 7-20. But, I’ll discuss this with my orthopedic surgeon – it’s been 3 weeks since I injured it, I have been icing regularly, doing gentle strengthening exercises, and resting it completely. If he recommends surgery – but I haven’t had an MRI yet! – I am prepared to give up the next 3 tournaments on my schedule – and more if need be; but am hopeful that he may give me the go-ahead to try to lay in New Haven.

    Cheers, good luck and take good care!

    Nick – sorry to hear that. This misery does NOT love company. but read my new post. George

  17. Sorry to hear about your injury. My guess this is just a minor blip in your tennis career. But be diligent with the rehab

    Hugh, “diligent” is my middle name! thanks, george

  18. This excellent message from a friend of Willy Hoffmann’s…

    I have exactly the same injury, a torn bicep tendon or “popeye muscle” as it is called. It happened when I was lunging for a high forehand about 2 months ago and I felt it “pop’. Luckily, there is an orthopedic surgeon on our team, and he said the first thing I should do is get an MRI to see the extent of the injury. I had this done, and another orthopedic surgeon confirmed my injury. He said that a famous football player actually won the superbowl with this injury. He said surgery is an option, but I could also try to adapt. I have subsequently played both golf and tennis with this injury without any pain. My golf game has not been affected at all, and my tennis, only a high forehand requires a slight adjustment. I have decided to continue my life without surgery and so far I am able to hold my own quite comfortably. My surgeon friend has seen me play and says I should continue my normal life without surgery, because every surgery is not guaranteed to be 100% successful. I am not planning to win Wimbledon, so I have chosen this route, but you must make your own choice. My only advice to you would be to go out and play and see if it has affected your game. You can always go for surgery later.
    Hope this helps.

  19. Hey George,

    Sorry to hear about your bicep. I tore the same muscle in 2005, four weeks before Fantasy camp. It was my left arm and I did it playing basketball. I reached up and it felt like someone shot me in the arm. The pain subsided quickly and I drove myself to emergency, where an intern doc told me he wasn’t sure it was torn. I remember saying to him, my bicep is up around my shoulder, I’m pretty sure it’s torn. So I just got up and left and called the orthopedic.

    Now I was already schedule for camp, so I asked the doc if I could postpone the surgery until after Fantasy Camp, and he said it would be okay as long as I got the surgery immediately upon return. I kept massaging the bicep and it dropped down some. It was my left arm, so my toss was not great but I was able to attend camp that year and play. Not awesome but I got through it. The next year in 2006 I got most improved camper, why do you think that happened? LOL!

    So my advice is, start rehabbing as soon as you’re able. I mean within 10 days or so after the operation. They gave me a metal brace which I wore for one day and tossed it. Massage the tissue where the scar will be and keep breaking it down. Scar tissue doesn’t know how to form it just stabilizes things, you need to teach it. Keep massaging daily once it heals until the tissue is less ropey…this is not fun. It feels like you’re taking a blow touch to it. Weight lift but be smart, challenge the arm but don’t get carried away, start light but don’t stay weight stagnate by never increasing the amount.

    Final verdict for me was my 12 week recovery took 9 weeks and I was able to make it back to play in our Senior Basketball League Championships. My doc was amazed, but your an athlete, put in the hard work and you’ll be back better than before. I notice no difference between my arms in terms of strength. Yours may be a bit more challenging because it’s your dominant limb and you use it for more, but that’s all the more reason to work it. What else have you got to do.

    Good luck. I’m sure you’ll make it back in plenty of time to be fit for camp.


    Paul, great advice. I started massaging as i was reading your words!! thanks, george

  20. George-
    I had my bicep tendon repaired when they did my rotator cuff surgery, so I don’t know what it’s like as a stand-alone operation.
    One thing I do know: do all and more of the rehab.
    Best of luck with your decision,

  21. Hi George,
    So sorry to hear about your injury knowing how much tennis is to you. Supposedly Helmud Peters had the exact same thing happen to him. His Doctor told him not to have surgery and obviously he still plays great tennis, especially his forehand. Good luck.

    Dave, yes Helmut has been emailing me with great advice. thanks, george

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