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Triceps Tendon Rupture

A rupture or tear in the triceps tendon, the tendon that connects the triceps muscle to the elbow, can result in the tendon becoming detached from the bone. This injury can be very painful and debilitating.

Triceps Tendon Rupture Hero Image 2

A rupture or tear in the triceps tendon, the tendon that connects the triceps muscle to the elbow, can result in the tendon becoming detached from the bone. This injury can be very painful and debilitating.

What causes Triceps Tendon Rupture?

Triceps tendon ruptures usually happen when the triceps muscle is trying to straighten while a significant amount of force causes the elbow to bend. Though uncommon, this is a serious injury that is typically seen among athletes such as football players or weightlifters. It often results from an acute injury due to a fall, collision, or sudden stress to the tendon. Other risk factors include degeneration (decay) of the tendon due to aging or steroid use.

Tricep tendon ruptures are most commonly seen in these sports:
• Weightlifting
• Football
• Rugby

Symptoms

Triceps tendon rupture is characterized by severe pain around the back of the elbow. Other symptoms may include:
• A “popping” sound when the injury occurs
• Swelling at the back of the elbow
• Difficulty straightening the arm
• Limited range of motion

When to see a doctor

A rupture of the triceps tendon is a serious injury. If you experience these symptoms, you should immediately seek medical care. Your doctor will want to take a medical history and understand how your injury occurred. A physical examination will be conducted to see if:
• You can straighten your arm
• There is swelling or defect where the triceps tendon attaches to the elbow

Making a prompt diagnosis will help ensure a better treatment outcome should you have a ruptured triceps tendon. Your doctor may order an x-ray to help make a diagnosis. Other imaging tests like an MRI or ultrasound may be ordered to help confirm the diagnosis. However, the diagnosis is often clear on physical examination and further testing is not necessary.

Non-operative treatment

Initial treatment of a ruptured triceps tendon will involve rest, ice and compression. Usually, treatment for this injury requires surgery, especially for athletes who wish to resume playing sports.

Surgical Treatment

Surgical treatment involves re-attaching the displaced tendon to the elbow. Surgeons do this by making a small incision behind the elbow and using stitches or screws to attach the tendon to the elbow.

Recovery

Your doctor will work with you to develop a recovery plan. You will need to wear a splint or brace to immobilize the elbow for several weeks after surgery so that your tendon can heal properly in the correct position. Gradual motion of the elbow will begin once healing has occurred. After you achieve full range of motion, strengthening exercises can begin. If you follow the treatment plan properly, a full recovery is expected, though it can take three to six months.

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