Torn Bicep Tendon No Match for QC Weightlifter

Ryan Gleason
Moline weightlifter, Ryan Gleason, says a preacher bicep curl led to a ruptured tendon, but he’s back on track for a new year.

Resolved: Torn Bicep Tendon No Match for Quad City Weightlifter

Ryan Gleason
Ryan loves working out at Top Shape Gym.

Even the strongest of us can experience the surprise and denial of injury. Just ask life-long weightlifter and 37-year old Moline resident, Ryan Gleason, who experienced a seemingly innocuous “pop” while working out. “I was teaching my girlfriend how to do a bicep curl, when I felt this ‘pop and snap.’

“It wasn’t excruciating, I could still move my arm, but I wasn’t sure what happened or if I should continue the workout or head to the ER.” Ryan erred on the side of caution and drove to ORA’s Urgent OrthoCARE Clinic. The news surprised him.

“They took x-rays and said I likely needed surgery. I was shocked when they told me I could be out for six months.

“I have been strong my whole life and never injured. I played sports in high school and maintained my workouts because my career in law enforcement is physically demanding. I run, bike, hike. I even teach a spin class, so yeah, I was devastated.”

Plans for more workouts and a vacation to California were put on hold.

A painful injury at the gym led Ryan to ORA Orthopedics

Ryan met with ORA Orthopedics’ Hand and Upper Extremity Surgeon, Dr. Alan Edwards, who confirmed the popping sound Ryan heard was the tearing of his distal bicep tendon that attaches the muscle to the elbow. “This is the tendon that allows you to bend your elbow or turn your palm up,” Dr. Edwards explains. “The tendon can weaken over time, or as in Ryan’s situation, the tendon can pop when you shift a load quickly on the elbow, such as moving a heavy piece of furniture or lifting weights.”

Alan Edwards M D
Dr. Edwards, ORA Orthopedics

With California on his mind, Ryan’s surgery was scheduled a week after the injury. Dr. Edwards performed a distal bicep tendon repair as an outpatient procedure at Quad City Ambulatory Surgery Center.

He found Ryan’s tendon had rolled up the arm, so he brought it back down to the elbow joint, drilled a hole in the bone, and reattached it to the forearm. The surgery lasted an hour, but Ryan discovered that months of rehab can be a struggle, even for the most motivated patient.

“It was so frustrating that I couldn’t use my left dominant arm.  I had to tell keep telling myself ‘I can do it!’

“When I teach classes, I try to inspire participants to go beyond their physical comfort zones, and it was interesting for me to understand what it means to start over myself. There are so many unknowns. I was facing three to six months of rehab, and I couldn’t go back to work until I was 100-percent. My lifestyle was on hold.” Ryan set a goal to finish rehab ahead of schedule.

Ryan was determined to workout again after surgery

“He has been one motivated patient, and it can be very hard to slow down and let the injury heal,” says Dr. Edwards. “And while studies do show that these bicep tears occur more commonly in males because they tend to move heavier objects, this type of injury can affect anyone. It is not necessarily related to the strength of a patient’s muscles. Tears occur in people of all ages and fitness levels.”

Ryan committed to his PT schedule and slowly regained his strength. “I am very competitive in fitness, and I wanted to beat my target date.” He beat it by a week.

“He’s has done awesome every step of the way,” says his doctor.

Five months later Ryan returned to the gym and is working his way back to lifting his normal weight. “I’m back to my routine of working, lifting, and teaching.

“I feel so much better. The camaraderie of the gym and seeing my spin students just inspires me. There is no other feeling like that. It is so good to work hard and resuming my weight lifting is so rewarding.”

His 2023 fitness goal?  “I’m doing my fourth Bix and want to run it under an hour.” His advice to the rest of us facing New Year resolutions: “Remain persistent. It will pay off.”

Ryan Gleason
In addition to lifting weights, Ryan loves to run, bike, and hike. He even teaches spin class.