Add another player to the Eagles “out for the season” list. Jordan Hicks ruptured his left pectoralis major in the final minutes of this past Sunday’s game against Dallas. The injury occurred as Hicks reached his left arm out to tackle Cowboys receiver Cole Beasley. These injuries are usually the result of an eccentric overload on an outstretched arm. The injury occurs as the player is trying to move the arm forward (ie tackle) as the arm is forcefully pushed backwards (ie player running through the tackle). This sudden eccentric load causes the tendon to either rupture near its attachment on the humerus or to pull off of the humerus itself.
The pectoralis major muscle originates on the sternum and ribs and inserts on the proximal humerus at the bicipital grove. The main function of the pectoralis major is to elevate and internally rotate the arm and is the key muscle when performing activities that require power in these planes of motion. Most athletes are unable to return sports that require pushing and tackling, such as football and wrestling, without surgical repair.
A 2014 study by Tarity et al looked at pectoralis major ruptures in the NFL from 200-2010. They found 10 complete ruptures during this period. 5 of 10 were in defensive players and 9 of 10 occurred during games. All 10 occurred on the football field with none occurring in the weight room. The authors were able to obtain the mechanism of injury for 6 of 10, with all of the reported mechanisms involving either tackling or blocking. The incidence of pectoralis major ruptures during the 11-year study was 0.004 showing that it is a rare injury in professional football. All 10 athletes returned to play in the NFL but the study was unable to obtain data to further investigate the long term effect the injury may or may not have had on their careers. Previous studies have shown a much higher success rate with surgical repair versus non-operative treatment with 70% of athletes having excellent results.
The results of the NFL study are very promising for return to play after pectoralis major injuries. This is great news for Jordan Hicks. I’m sure we’ll see him back on the practice field sometime this summer and in the starting lineup come August.