You see your opponent rounding third base. As you run to left field the ball drops in your mitt and you get ready to throw the ball to home plate. As you lunge forward and heave the baseball overhead to the catcher you feel a sudden pain shoot through your shoulder. You know you’re injured but you’re unsure of what it might be.
Tendons attach muscles to bones. Your biceps tendons attach the biceps muscle to bones in the shoulder and in the elbow. The head of the upper arm bone is usually much larger than the shoulder socket, and a soft fibrous tissue rim called the labrum surrounds the socket to help stabilize the joint. The biceps tendon attaches to the labrum and works with it to create arm movement in the shoulder. In many athletes this area is prone to a lot of injuries.
In young athletes, an injury to this area is often from a forceful throw with poor mechanics; such as an outfielder in baseball trying to throw a runner out at home plate. Repetitive motion can be the culprit in older individuals. For instance, raking the leaves for a few hours on a Saturday can lead to biceps tendinitis, especially in someone who hasn’t performed those motions in a long time.
Overhead sports like baseball, softball, volleyball are classic for labral injuries. Biceps tendinitis can occur from repetitively pulling things toward your body and could occur from a variety of different activities at home or in the workplace.
“With younger, overhead athletes we often see injuries to the glenoid labrum that are the result of more forceful trauma to the shoulder. Labral tears are somewhat more common in this group, especially among throwers and volleyball players,” said Dr. Matthew Lavery, OrthoIndy sports medicine specialist. “As individuals age, they tend to be more prone to overuse injuries such as biceps tendinitis and biceps tendon instability where the tendon slips out of the groove in the bone.”
Symptoms of a biceps tendon or labral injury include: pain in the anterior (front) part of the shoulder, pain worsened when reaching overhead or behind the back, especially with the shoulder in a rotated position.
According to Dr. Lavery, the best prevention is general shoulder conditioning and flexibility. Balancing and strengthening the muscles that support and stabilize the shoulder blade may help protect the biceps tendon and labrum. Strong posterior muscles might allow an individual to avoid putting excessive strains into the biceps and labrum.
“Ice, anti-inflammatories, rest, activity modification and physical therapy can be utilized to treat many biceps and labral issues,” said Dr. Lavery. “When these things fail, a simple cortisone injection is sometimes utilized to provide additional relief. Surgery is needed if these conservative measures have failed.”
Basic healing for biceps and labral injuries often ranges between three and four months. An athlete can expect to return to their sport with full strength after six months or more depending upon the severity of the injury and the demands of the sport.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Lavery please call 317.884.5170 or request an appointment online at OrthoIndy.com/request.