Health Watch: From bodybuilders to boxers: Repairing pec tears

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, bodybuilders, 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 weightlifting 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. 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."

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% - 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 require surgery. Dr. Rue says many servicemen, especially those stationed overseas are using their downtime to stay in top shape and may be overtraining.

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