You might need your pectoralis major to play in the NFL

Lucky number seven! Week 7 in the NFL did bring NFL players a bit of luck as this week featured the fewest injuries since we started this party! Week 7 by the numbers:

35 = Number of players who missed game time due to injury.

16 = Number of players placed on season-ending IR.

6 = Number of pectoral tears.

2 = Number of pectoral tears since the opening kick-off.

Before I go on, let me throw a shout out to Demarco Murray, running back of the Dallas Cowboys. In every game so far this season, Murray has rushed for over 100 yards. The last time a running back started the season with seven straight 100-yard games was… NEVER! He is the first man to do that. But my favourite stat of this season weighs Murray’s success against the Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders’ failures. Murray has run his tail off for a total of 913 yards this season – this number is one yard greater than total rushing yards of the Falcons and Raiders… COMBINED! Did that just blow your hat off? Because mine is long gone! You go, Demarco! Four for you, Demarco!

Okay, now focusing in on this week’s topic of discussion: pectoral tears. If you’re thinking, “Ow, that doesn’t sound fun”, you are correct! Let’s look at the anatomy of this injury first. The pecs consist of two different muscles: pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. Even though they might sound like constellations, I can assure you they are found in the front of your chest and not in the sky. The smaller pec minor muscle originates from the upper ribs and inserts on to the scapula (shoulder blade). The larger pec major muscle originates from the ribs, sternum (breast bone), and clavicle (collar bone) and inserts on to the humerus (arm bone). Typically, pec major is the victim we’re referring to when we talk about pectoral tears. Got all that? I’ll give you a quick break to massage your brain after that anatomy overload.Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 3.32.49 PM

Basically, what you need to know is that pec major is a huge muscle that moves your arm in a bunch of directions. It works to beat your arch nemesis in the arm wrestling championships, lift your victory trophy, push the revolving doors to get to the new car you just won, and reach across your body to buckle yourself in. Yeah, all of those movements involve the pecs! So if you wreck your pecs, you end up losing a bunch of functional mobility.

If you can’t lift your arm, how are you supposed to tackle muscular NFL athletes? Welcome to the lives of Jacksonville Jaguars’ Paul Posluszny and Washington Redskins’ Brian Orakpo. Both guys tore their pecs in week 7. It’s a big blow to their teams because they’re not just any player, they are Pro Bowl athletes who make tons of money!

How did they get injured? The reports pectearnflaren’t crystal clear but from my investigative work on Twitter, it sounds like Posluszny was hurt sacking a quarterback and Orakpo was injured tacking a running back. Both of these actions require the pecs to exert a great amount of force to get the job done. But, an overly excessive force placed on any muscle, even the robust pec major, will cause it to tear. Pretend your muscle is like a rubber band. The band, like your muscle, is elastic and flexible – they shrink (like when you contract) and elongate (like when you stretch). Now think about pulling that band apart very strongly and quickly. If you’ve been eating your Wheaties, the band will snap if you apply enough force on it. This rubber band snapping is similar to a muscle tearing. In the case of pec major, ruptures usually occur at its musculotendinous junction. If you look at the picture above, the red part of pec major is the muscle belly and the pink part (closer to the humerus) is thScreen Shot 2014-10-22 at 3.57.40 PMe tendon. So when Posluszny and Orakpo tore their pecs, the injury likely occurred at the connection between the muscle belly and tendon. It’s also probable that they had extensive bruising as a result of the damage to muscle and tendon fibers. A history of a sudden traumatic force to the arm resulting in substantial bruising is a major indicator that physios look for when suspecting pec tears.

What’s in store for Posluszny and Orakpo after this injury? First step is surgery! These players will go under the knife to repair their torn muscle (but not before they tweet pre-op pictures). Surgical repair consists of stitching the split ends of the muscle and tendon back together. (If you’re not squeamish, you can watch a pectoral repair procedure!) Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 12.39.34 PMAfter a period of immobilization in a sling, they will begin rehab with their training staff. Physio initially consists of range of motion exercises to restore the mobility lost from being in a sling for multiple weeks. Once range returns, gentle strengthening is the next focus. These 250lb dudes will master exercises with therabands before they’re allowed to play around with dumbbells and barbells. Recovery for pectoral tears can last up to eight months. This long rehab is the reason why players who sustain this type of injury see their season come to an end. But with the proper treatment, there’s no doubt we will see the return of these two all-stars next season. Good luck, boys!

Before I sign off, here’s a quick tip to help prevent the tightening up of your pec major. Unless you’re training to break the world bench press record of 722lb, it’s unlikely you’ll ever endure a pectoral tear. But the pecs tend to be a tight muscle in the average Joe or Jane. Why? Because of the amount of time we spend in a crappy rounded shoulders position when we’re sitting in front of a computer or studying at a desk. This release technique is very handy to loosen up tight spots in your pecs. Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 11.48.46 PMGrab a tennis ball or lacrosse ball and squish it between a wall and your pecs. As you roll the ball around, you will probably feel some uncomfortably sore spots. Let your body weight lean into the ball and use the pressure of the ball to massage those nasty trigger points. If you don’t feel anything, try leaning into the ball a bit more. If you still don’t, then bravo to you because you own some specstacular pecs!

Work on releasing those pecs daily! I’m not sure if you heard but having tight pecs and poor posture is just as bad a fashion faux pas as wearing socks with sandals… Or a swan dress (lookin’ at you, Bjork)… Or a meat dress (callin’ you out, Lady Gaga). Alright, time for my lacrosse ball and I to reunite!

– Chris (2-5)

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