shoulder anatomy

Bicep Injury…Part 3

Previously, I had discussed my personal injury. Unfortunately, it has kept me relatively uncompetitive for the last 3 years. I thought I had done everything the doctors and therapists said, yet here we go again.

My saga has taken a turn for the worse. It seems I have likely torn my bicep again. Not even a month into the season and here we go again for the 4th time in three years.
Doctor basically said since it’s a constantly recurring injury, they’d like me to take a whole year off or start bowling righty…
Well, if that wasn’t the most fantastic news to hear.

I guess the only way for me not to completely destroy my arm is to change my game substantially or change to a righty.

A couple of weeks ago in my sport league, about half way into game 1, I felt that well known pain again. It’s a sharp pain in the belly of the bicep. I knew my night, and maybe my season was over right then and there.

Now the silver lining. In the 30 minutes or so after I stopped and was chatting, I may have uncovered something with my team. I told my driller (Eric Deaton of StrikeMor Pro Shop) how the more relaxed I thought I was, the worse I felt. In other words, the more broken my wrist was at the start, the worse it hurt. What was happening was I was breaking my wrist, but on the downswing, I’d cock it again and come through it. That takes a lot of muscle to do. The way to visualize is to have a look at what Mike Fagan does. He has a broken wrist, and then cocks it back at the top of the backswing.

So we decided to try a Robby’s wrist brace. I used a wrist brace once in my life, for about 6 months when I was 18 when I tore some tendons in my wrist playing tennis. Never since then. The thought behind it was that if I was not able to move my wrist back and forth from broken to cocked, I might relieve some of the excessive biceps work. I went to the center a few days later before my other league to see if I had any shot at all. That afternoon, my doctor had broken the news to me but I decided to go anyway. I have learned to use very careful judgment to continue or not so I thought no harm to throw a few shots. Please do not take that as advice to ignore your doctor!

Here’s what I did. I used the brace to avoid the back and forth wrist motion. I also tried to create earlier timing. I figured if my arm would arrive a bit earlier, I wouldn’t be planting, then waiting on it, forcing it down. I also decided to keep a slight bend in my elbow and “short hinge” it. This was intentionally to avoid a fully stretched out arm at the top of the backswing, which hurts like hell due to the tear.

I threw a few shots and it didn’t really hurt. So I threw a few more. Eric was watching and he immediately said it was better than I had ever thrown the ball. Basically no muscle and no excessive movement. What I told him was that it’s happened before, I don’t put any muscle on the ball, but as I build strength back up, eventually I revert to the muscle memory. I am a quick study, but have to be watched so that I don’t revert.

I wasn’t feeling any additional pain from throwing so I decided to bowl the league, with a caveat that I would have to stop if I felt pain and I wasn’t going to score well. I made it through the night. No searing pain, but some heat in the arm. I have an existing injury and there’s always a certain amount of muscle. All the coaches want to talk about physics, pendulum swing, and no muscling. From a medical point of view though, that is not possible. Anatomically, there will absolutely be activation of the biceps muscle no matter what you do. The extent of the contraction is what you limit, the more pendulum-like you are.

The first thought of course was that this can be very promising. My swing was fluid without hitches or muscled shots. My head stayed steady at the line. That has always been the giveaway for me since it was always hard for me to tell I was muscling. If I see the head bob slightly, I know I muscled.

It wasn’t a strong night in terms of scores, but I didn’t expect anything. It was just really comforting to feel like there’s a possibility to continue my bowling career. If I could bowl that way in a state of a torn bicep, then there’s no reason why I couldn’t do it when I’m healthy. I’ll just need to work on it to gain some accuracy with the different timing and shorter backswing.

I will be meeting Lou Marquez of Turbo in Detroit to have a detailed evaluation. At this stage, I clearly need to revamp my game if I plan to have any career…or a functioning arm for that matter. Lou is one of the best.

Will post another update after I visit Lou!

14 thoughts on “Bicep Injury…Part 3”

    1. Thanks Robert. I certainly hope I don’t have to stay out of the sport that long. I hope you’ve also been able to get back into the sport.

  1. Hi Coach T. I really enjoy your site and can empathise with your situation. I’ve been dealing with wrist tendonitis for the past few years and it always seems to come back even after rest. Anyway, I don’t have any personal experience with it, but would changing to 2-handed bowling alleviate some of the stress on your bicep? This option seems less extreme than going lefty. Good Luck.

    1. Wrist tendonitis can be a pain for sure. Couple suggestions…you took time off, but if you didn’t change anything you’re likely going to have it come back.

      Paul Fleming had the same issue. He dropped to a 14# ball on tour, and changed some pitches in his grip to alleviate the pain.

      My other suggestion is some physical therapy to strengthen your grip, and your wrist. I also am a big fan of A.R.T., which is short for active release technique. It’s great for issues like this, and the biceps issues this article is originally about. Shoot me a message if you have questions.

      PS, I have a 10yr+ back ground in sports medicine. Hope this helps!!

    1. Thanks Ack. We’re working on it. Injuries unfortunately are part of every sport, even though some don’t want to recognize that bowling really is a sport. I am hoping I don’t need to do anything as drastic as switching arms and 2-handed will probably not work for me.
      Take care of yourself. See a good coach and maybe a physical therapist to get your wrist in the shape you need to bowl.
      Good Luck!

  2. Coach T,

    Seems as we meet again. I am sure you remember my ALL TOO SIMILAR story to yourself.

    Myself being 26, and have been unable to bowl for 1.5 years now because of a similar injury is frustrating. Especially – like as you said, there isn’t anything physically I do that is so strange or abnormal that should cause this pain. Actually there a lot of things physically I did really well.

    Anyways I haven’t sent you an update in awhile so here is mine.

    I did 7 weeks of physical therapy, focusing on scapula strength under the assumption it was a proximal weakness causing an overload on my bicep.

    They told me to go try bowling again. 9 shots later, I was done and probably about as sore as it has ever been. This is after 3 months off, and 7 weeks of physical therapy. Not a good result I would say. However I like my physical therapist as they are honestly just trying to find a solution and I am getting a lot stronger.

    So I went back, and we went back to the drawing board. My PT had recently sat in on a Graston demonstration and told me to look into it. (youtube Graston Technique or ASTYM). Seems like a semi interesting idea and honestly I will probably try it soon. Closest provider is about an hr away. I have tried EVERYTHING else – why not this.

    After watching that there was a local sports massage therapist I started seeing – I thought I could get similar effect. He is a pretty smart guy, and has worked with a lot of athletes.

    So after the 7 weeks, attempted bowling, failing – it has been about 4 weeks full of physical therapy and 2 massage therapy appointments.

    Yesterday I threw about 6 shots – and instantly started feeling that pain again. Today I am pretty sore. Not sure where your discomfort is, but mine is bicep related and definitely where the bicep goes into the elbow. Sore …tender…all the above.

    I also have been working out quite a bit and it is amazing to me how much and how hard I can push my bicep / arm / anything else and not get any similar pain. If anything, just some slight muscle soreness from working out.

    I wish someone in the WORLD could maybe give you and I something useful. I have tried multiple arm braces etc – no wrist brace.

    Here are my thoughts. Tendon issue … and tendons don’t heal! Or not well. However I had also been thinking about trying a wrist brace, as I do get quite a bit of wrist movement at the bottom of my swing to create that ball reaction (LIKE EVERY PBA PLAYER). At the end of the day, wrist / fingers are all full of tendons and probably connect somewhere around the bicep. Less strain/pressure/movement of those may result in less or no pain.

    Wrist brace is one of my next missions.

    One other experiment I am going to take part in is throwing a ball – with no approach / rotation / revs / concern for speed/ or muscle. Literally just let my arm swing and the ball fall off my hand and roll down the lane at 5 mph.

    I run a bowling center, so I plan to pick a time and do that for about 4 games JUST to see if that aggravates my arm. If it does NOT then I will build from that and see if I can figure out the motion / technique that does bother it and cut it out of the game.

    OR swap to my right hand – but as I am sure with you, I am not nearly as good right handed and am not sure I want to put forth the effort to be a mediocre right handed bowler.

    Anyways keep me posted – let me know what Lou says, he’s a smart cookie. I will let you know if I find anything on this planet that is useful.



    1. Hi Jon,
      I know the frustration. Let me say this for now. I am bowling again. Not well (in terms of scoring) but throwing the ball with little to no pain at regular speeds. I’ve been able to do so for about 4 weeks now, even after the excruciating pain I felt just before changing my game.
      Have faith, I will share some more details soon that may help you and others. Not sure if it will help you, but it’s worth sharing.
      I haven’t seen any video of your I don’t think so would be great if you could share some that would be great. What I could tell you is if 100 bowlers bowled like me, 98 would have no issues whatsoever. It’s just something with our bodies that just doesn’t match what we try to do.
      Some notes about PT. My PT last year used the Graston technique on me for a couple of months. I think it helped heal the major tear I had and allow some of the inflammatory tissue and fluid shrink. However, my current PT might have found something that is very specific to my motion. I don’t know about you, but I do not have general bicep weakness. I can do pull-ups, bicep curls, etc. The issues I have are only activated by bowling and once I’m hurt, then it effects everything else. I was shown a specific exercise and after a few reps, I can feel the exact pain from bowling. Basically, muscles are very specific. You have to trigger very specific sections of muscle to train them. In my case, I have a very specific area that’s weak.
      I’ll post some more notes shortly, after seeing Lou. I have to give major credit to Eric Deaton though as the concepts we initiated have allowed me to bowl pain free.

  3. CoachT,

    Sounds interesting – please share what you have learned. I too feel similarly that it is a very specific muscle weakness or tendon related.

    I have been working out a lot lately and seeing my PT weekly. My arm / shoulder / upper body strength has gone up a lot and was not poor to begin with.

    You saw that youtube video once I do believe

    I think the most recent one I had was back in Jan of 2011

    Anyways I am glad to hear your injury has been progressing. While I have been getting stronger – my injury has not improved.


    1. Right Jon, I did see your video. Watching it, like watching mine, 95 out of 100 bowlers would not have issues. Some injury occurred which led to a particular weak spot. The trouble I have seen is what I mentioned previously. Strengthening the muscle overall is not a bad thing, but doesn’t heal a specific injury. Given that the pain is triggered by a specific bowling related motion, unless you can replicate that motion in your therapy, you will not be able to strengthen it.

      Can you email me a mp4 or mov. if you have one. I’d like to look at it frame by frame. You can do it by a decent phone video even.

  4. I haven’t read the entire story, but I’ve recently injured my forearm. 1st frame of my 3rd game I felt a pop/buzz in the belly of my forearm. like hitting your funny bone. Nothing really painful, but I knew it wasn’t good. I quit and rested for about 2 weeks, icing and resting and taking ibuprofen and aleve from time to time. Also just doing some stretching and very light resistance moves with a light 10 lb ball and a 5 lb weight. Just to see how it felt. I also tried to readjust my approach. Using less muscle and just letting the ball do the work. Went back to the bowling alley and after a few frames I felt the pop/buzz in the forearm again and immediately quit. On Christmas day I was cleaning up after dinner and a salad spinner fell off the fridge, I went to catch it and in that motion of reaching out, I felt severe pain in my arm. This was not a pop/buzz kind of thing. This time is was extremely painful. I knew something more serious happened. Few days later I can see bruising on the inside belly of my forearm and there’s a noticeable lump of tissue in the joint between forearm and bicep. No pain, but it’s sore. I can recreate the painful motion if I reach out and twist my arm clockwise quickly. like opening a door knob in a clockwise direction. If I do this motion fast, I can feel a strong pulling feeling in the forearm with some pain. If I do it in a counter-clockwise direciton, toward the left, there’s no pain. Youd think it would be the bowling motion that would cause pain, but it’s the opposite direction, to the right, that hurts. Primary care docs only saw me before the bruising and can’t say much without MRI. My strength is fine, it’s just the motion that causes pain. Need to see a PT expert for a definitive opinion and possibly someone who deals with orthopedics and MRI. Hard to get an appt on short notice. Still trying to make that appt. So I’m interested in this since I haven’t found many articles on bowling injuries and I’m worried this might need surgery. Strange thing is I can function fine. My normal working and daily routines are not hampered by this. It’s just the Bowling Motion that is affected. I can lift heavy objects and shovel snow and many other things. I can tell I’m injured, but there’s no pain and it’s not stopping me from working. My bowling life is dead though. Too bad there’s not a little blue pill for this.

    1. Sorry to hear that! Definitely get it checked out before going any further. Hopefully an MRI will give you a good idea of what’s going on and what you might need to work on with your PT. Good Luck!

      1. My bicep surgery was yesterday. lots of pain today. more than i expected. I can’t type quickly of course. will update after next followup with surgeon on 2/11/2013. Wearing light cast/splint and sling. A real hassle to do normal things. will begin pt around same date. What a freakin’ hassle. but i want my life back, so here we go. Lesson learned, stay in shape. stay trained.

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