To start off the series on health, I wanted to discuss my own injury.
Three seasons ago, in December 2009, I suffered a bicep injury. I was bowling two nights a week at that time and had started to feel strain in my bicep. At the time, I was averaging 230 and feeling pretty good about my game. I Just chalked up the pain initially as just too much bowling. Eventually, one night I reached a point where I was in so much pain I had to stop. I had a searing pain through the belly of the bicep. I just felt like my arm was on fire. I tried bowling for several weeks just dumping that ball while being in severe pain. One of my leagues was a scratch money league so I felt compelled to try for the team. Unfortunately, not bowling would have been better for the team as well my own physical well being. I averaged something like 165 for 4 weeks and then finally took about 4 weeks off to let my arm heal. When I had it checked out, there was nothing glaring to the physician so we chalked it up to some bicep tearing which simply needed rest.
I decided to get some advice from a local coach and we discussed getting more leverage from the lower body. I guess I had gotten into a habit of using too much upper body power rather than using my legs. I was muscling the ball. It actually was the trigger for my leverage articles. After the break, I came back fine and was bowling even better than I had earlier in the season.
I thought everything was fine…or so I thought.
From that injury, I started looking at changes to my physical game. My speed dropped as it probably caught up to the lower body’s “intention”. I felt I was really reaching a higher state of bowling. I continued into the next fall season with the two leagues and then sometime in the second half of the 2010-11 season, I started to feel “tweaks” in my arm. I was unknowingly starting to revert to the old muscle memory. While I was changing my game, I was healing. But as I healed, it made it easier to do what I used to do. I had alleviated a bit of the over-torquing of my upper body, I was muscling the ball again. So the pain creeped back in.
Finally in April 2011, it all fell apart. I don’t recall a “snap” or anything of the sort, but I did feel a significant fiery pain in my bicep one night. The next morning, I had a huge bulge near my elbow on the inside of my arm. It was filled with blood. I had what appeared to be bruises in several locations in my arm. It was time to see an Orthopedic Surgeon. Obviously, my bowling season was over. (Click to enlarge)
Off I went. On physical exam, the surgeon almost instantly assumed I had torn the Long Head Bicep Tendon. To briefly describe the anatomy, the bicep is held to the shoulder by two tendons, the long head, and short head. At the elbow, the bicep is attached by one tendon called the Distal Biceps Tendon. Rupturing a tendon isn’t the absolute end of the world but it’s not fun. The bicep can generally still maintain a substantial amount of it’s function and strength with only one tendon at the shoulder, but it will be a bit deformed on contraction.
They sometimes call it the “Popeye” effect.
The surgeon told me the story of John Elway and his bicep tendon rupture in his throwing arm in the 1997 preseason, but going on to the Super Bowl that season. It’s an interesting story; you can look it up on the web.
Anyway, the moral there was that if the long head tendon was completely ruptured, it may have been the best result as it would not require a surgical repair since the bicep can maintain most of its strength. Partial ruptures are the problem because you are in constant pain as it never heals on its own. It would then require surgery to snip it or reattach it. On the flipside, if the Distal tendon at the elbow if ruptured, it definitely requires surgery if you want use of the bicep again since it’s the only tendon at that end.
OK, so I went to get an MRI and lo and behold, I’m told my tendons are perfectly fine. The surgeon was so excited. I wasn’t. I’m thinking to myself, “so what’s the deal with this huge bulge on my arm and the fact that I can’t bowl or really do anything with my arm.” I was told that is is basically a hematoma or a pool of blood and fluid from the inflammatory response. My bicep had some significant muscular tearing. What was the result? No bowling for 5 months and rehab for about 3 months.
Great, so it finally caught up with me.
Alright, I thought let me take it easy this season and join one league while I get healthy again. I was not bowling anywhere near the peak, but that was completely expected. It was extremely frustrating, but expected. I thought I was finally in the clear and can live happily ever after. Unfortunately, that wasn’t so. In December 2011, it started again. At this stage, I thought my bowling career may be over. Despite all the things I’ve tried to correct, the rehab, changing of my game, I continued to suffer from this injury. I even contemplated changing to a righty and restart my bowling career from that side.
I spent some time in the last couple of months as a last ditch effort to understand what about my game is causing the problem and how I can finally make a permanent change to my game. I have been working on that aspect for the last 3 weeks and things may seem to be looking up. I am cautiously optimistic.
This background information should help set the stage for the next few articles in the health column. I want to let you in on some specifics and how I am progressing through this injury. I know that a bicep injury of this kind is not particularly common in bowling, but the issues that cause it are very common. Therefore, I believe the articles to follow can be of help as you develop your physical game, regardless of your level.