An Accelerated Protocol for Rehabbing a “Popeye Sign” Injury

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have biceps that look like Popeye’s? For some it’s a grim reality that they’re facing. In the orthopedic world, we often refer to a ruptured distal bicep tendon as a “Popeye Sign.” It’s typically caused when a person contracts his or her bicep forcefully in response to a powerful, immovable force. I used to see cases after a hurricane when I worked in Florida. People would be out in the elements trying to tie up their boat, and a giant wave would yank the boat and the rope that they were holding. If that sounds painful, it is. A distal bicep tendon can also rupture when a person overexerts the bicep muscle while lifting something that is simply too heavy.

There are many different ways to deal with this type of injury, but the most common is surgery. The good news is that the rehab process has grown increasingly faster, thanks to new technology and improved surgical techniques. In fact, Dr. Todd Battaglia and I have developed an accelerated protocol with these advances in mind. A chapter about the protocol will be included in a soon-to-be-published textbook: Techniques in Shoulder and Elbow Surgery. 

So if you come up against a hurricane or a window that was nailed shut, try to resist the urge to flex your biceps, if only to avoid a painful injury. But if you do develop a bulge that only Olive Oyl would find attractive, go see your doctor and ask about advances in surgery and rehab. Be your own advocate and ask about an accelerated rehab protocol. If you find yourself with any questions, the professionals at Sports PT are always glad to provide counsel.

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