Triceps Tendon Ruptures Repaired in Pittsburgh, PA

Male athlete sitting on a green field and gripping his painful elbow

The triceps tendons are strong, flexible bands of tissue that connect the powerful triceps muscle to the shoulder blade (scapula) and the bony prominence of the elbow (olecranon). Together with the triceps muscle, the triceps tendons extend the shoulder and elbow, allowing the arm to lift, bend, and straighten.

Triceps tendon ruptures are relatively uncommon injuries that usually occur during a “pushing” movement, such as a bench press, push up, or football block, or a fall onto an outstretched arm. If the elbow is suddenly forced to bend while the triceps muscle is simultaneously attempting to straighten it, the triceps tendon may completely tear away from its attachment point on the olecranon.

What Are the Symptoms of a Torn Triceps Tendon?

When a triceps tendon ruptures, it may produce a sharp tearing sensation in the elbow as well as an audible “popping” sound. A torn triceps tendon may be unable to hold the triceps muscle firmly in place, making it difficult or impossible to bend or straighten the arm. Other symptoms can include:

  • Swelling and bruising around the elbow
  • Tenderness at the back of the upper arm
  • Weakness and muscle spasms in the arm

Triceps tendon ruptures can be challenging to diagnose and treat. Therefore, if that type of injury is suspected, it is important to seek professional medical attention from an experienced orthopedic specialist within 48 hours. In the meantime, it is essential to control swelling, which can interfere with the healing process. RICE therapy, which involves rest, ice applications, compression, and elevation, can be effective for reducing inflammation in the injured arm.

How Are Triceps Tendon Ruptures Treated?

Usually, a ruptured triceps tendon will require a surgical repair, particularly in an athlete who wants to return to perform at his or her previous level of competition. If the injury is missed or neglected, a significant loss of arm extension strength may result.

To repair a torn triceps tendon, a surgeon will make an incision at the back of the elbow. Next, the surgeon will create a few crossing bone tunnels, then insert the ends of the torn tendon into the tunnels and anchor them with high-strength sutures. Afterward, the arm will be immobilized in a splint to promote proper healing. For approximately six weeks, the patient will perform a progressive regimen of range-of-motion therapy, then discontinue the sling and begin strength training.

A Top Elbow Specialist in Pittsburgh

Christopher C. Schmidt, MD, is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who performs elbow surgery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Widely recognized as a top elbow specialist and one of the best surgeons in the United States, Dr. Schmidt is skilled and experienced in performing the latest surgical techniques for repairing triceps tendon ruptures.

If you would like to explore your treatment options for a torn triceps tendon or another sports-related elbow injury, contact Dr. Schmidt’s office to schedule a consultation at one of his three locations in Pittsburgh, PA.