"I decided to write this article on recovering and returning to competition after injury, mainly referring to a bicep detachment as firstly this was the major injury I have suffered within my strongman career and secondly because I know of a few athletes currently who have recently had surgery to repair such an injury.
First off a bit of background on me and also my injury. I have been competing in strongman for around 8 years, although the first 3 weren’t really serious training. More so just a hobby then as I progressed up the UK ranks I decided to devote more time and effort to the endeavor. In 2011 I won two Scottish titles and then went on to place 2nd to Eddie Hall at UK’s Strongest Man and then the day after this 3 day long contest I competed in the first ever Junior UK’s Strongest Man and overcame the odds to take the win and take the crown as the first Junior UK’s Champion.
This was obviously a huge confidence boost and after these accomplishments I went on a great streak of contest placings; 7th at the Arnold, winning the Scottish qualifier for Europe’s Strongest Man, winning BodyPower Expo, winning Scotland’s Strongest Man, competing with some the the best athletes on the planet at Europe’s, winning in China, winning the Scottish UK’s title again... All was going great in 2012 then 3 weeks out from UK’s Strongest Man I detached my left bicep training axle press.
The disappointment that hit me as I felt that muscle belly slide up my arm was unreal, a great season suddenly put to an end. I fully believe that in 2012 Ed and I would of had a great battle once again and maybe I could of gotten him, we’ll never know!
I had surgery on August 8th to repair the detached tendon and luckily I had torn the tendon right at the insertion to the bone which meant that I had very near full extension of my arm post surgery. This is not very common and typically athletes who tear their bicep will have a large range of motion restriction to overcome.
There are a three things that I would really take into account when recovering and returning to competition from this injury, and really for any injury in general.
1. Follow a proper rehab protocol
2. Take your time and listen to your body
3. Eliminate the fear of re-injury
Obviously having a proper plan for your recovery is a huge part of the process. Now you may get a rehab protocol from the surgeon directly, or if that isn’t the case then I highly recommend seeking out someone who specializes in athlete rehabilitation. Personally I contacted Rx Muscle’s own Mike Johnson as I knew he had experience with this type of injury in both a personal and professional capacity. I was actually lucky enough to receive a protocol from the surgeon too, but I wanted to get Mike’s opinion as I knew he was more experienced with athletes than my surgeon gave the impression to be.
Doing that was a very good decision on my part as it allowed me to have a specific plan to work to and also assess how my recovery progressed as the movement and strength within my injured bicep increased. This directly links into my next point which is very important during the recovery process, time.
Time is by far one of the hardest factors to determine when it comes to recovery. You might feel great physically, but internally things could not be ready for the demands you wish to place upon the recently injured muscle, tendon or ligament. I know that I definitely rushed my recovery as I had the Arnold the following March and knew that this contest was going to come very fast.
That said, I do almost regret the approach I took to my rehab. Due to really rushing and pushing hard to recover I ended up prolonging the numbness I was suffering in the heel of my hand and I also developed muscle tightness in other muscles of my arm which aid the bicep in elbow flexion. So the biggest piece of advice I can give above all others really is take your time, or if you are going to rush ensure you work with a manual therapist too to ensure reduction of further issues.
Lastly, the biggest hurdle to overcome in the rehab process is to get over the mental block of the injury. For me tearing my bicep during an axle clean and press, then having that event at the Arnold a few months later was a big deal. I remember my first session back to axle press and I was so nervous it was unreal. 100 pound on the bar had me sweating but I knew that my arm was strong enough and ready for it so I just had to get going again.
That is a big issue when it comes to re-injury, if you don’t fully believe that you are healed and ready to go again then you’ll alter how you lift and could very easily get hurt again.
Believe in yourself and your rehab, take your time, and everything will be perfect!"
Ken Nowicki is sponsored byTeamwork Therapy & Sports Performance based in Northglenn, CO and MetRx.
You may contact Ken on his website: knstrongman.com or on his FaceBook Page.