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Rapid injury analysis: Making sense of Emmanuel Ogbah’s torn pectoral muscle

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Our in-house injury expert, Aaron Borgmann, weighs in on the injury Ogbah suffered on Sunday.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah suffered a torn pectoral in the team’s game against the Tennessee Titans, according to old friend BJ Kissel of Chiefs dot com.

This is an injury that is seen frequently in the NFL, but we haven’t talked about it on Arrowhead Pride yet, so let’s take a look as to what that actually means.

The injury

The pectoralis major is the muscle we are considering in this case. A pectoralis minor tear would be much less severe.

The pectoralis major is a thick muscle across the front of your chest that originates at your sternum and clavicle and inserts onto your upper humerous (upper arm bone), as seen in the picture provided below:

This muscle is responsible for much of the pushing force away from your body, as well as stabilization of the shoulder in general.

We most often see it injured in weightlifting or in “whiplash” type injuries where the hand/forearm is taken away from the body forcefully, thereby putting tension on the tendon and then rupturing it.

After the injury, athletes will most often be seen grabbing directly at the area or kind of waving their arm around to feel what happened, similar to an AC joint injury upon appearance, except athletes normally try to grab under their pads.

Often, the defect is easily seen where the tendon and muscle belly meet, and a noticeable divot can be easily palpated, making the diagnosis fairly simple. An MRI here is a formality to confirm the diagnosis and extent of the damage to the tendon and associated structures.

A classic clinical sign of pec rupture

In the short term, bruising can be very apparent, as this is a very vascular area.

A popular WWE figure with a torn pectoral muscle

In a non-professional athlete, this is not a problem that often needs surgical intervention. It simply scars down, and with time and rehab, normal function can be regained fairly easily.

In NFL players, it depends on a couple of factors: player position and extent of damage. Some positions that do not do a ton of push-pull mechanics, such as wide receiver and defensive back, can get by without surgery and simply rehab their way through if appropriate.

Linemen, however, are typically not that fortunate. The forces and demands required for the position almost always dictate a surgical repair. Consider someone trying to hold back or push with all their force without their prime mover/stabilizer. I have not personally seen a lineman with a pec tear that played without surgery.

Potential timetable

If repair is indicated for Ogbah, the procedure is fairly simple and straightforward. Simple anchors to re-attach the tendon to bone or surgical suturing the tendon back together.

Rehab time period is typically four or five months, barring no setbacks and is obviously position-dependent, but these usually go very smoothly.

Should this athlete require surgical intervention, I would expect him to be fully ready for training camp next year.