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Phys Sportsmed. 2014 Sep;42(3):131-5. doi: 10.3810/psm.2014.09.2084.

Pectoralis major ruptures in professional American football players.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Sports Medicine Service/Shoulder and Elbow Service, The Rothman Institute, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA.



Pectoralis major injuries are an infrequent shoulder injury that can result in pain, weakness, and deformity. These injuries may occur during the course of an athletic competition, including football. The purpose of this study was to determine the incidence of pectoralis major ruptures in professional football players and time lost from the sport following injury. We hypothesized that ruptures most frequently occur during bench-press strength training.


The National Football League Injury Surveillance System was reviewed for all pectoralis major injuries in all players from 2000 to 2010. Details regarding injury setting, player demographics, method of treatment, and time lost were recorded.


A total of 10 injuries-complete ruptures-were identified during this period. Five of the 10 were sustained in defensive players, generally while tackling. Nine occurred during game situations, and 1 occurred during practice. Specific data pertinent to the practice injury was not available. No rupture occurred during weight lifting. Eight ruptures were treated operatively, and 2 cases did not report the method of definitive treatment. The average days lost was 111 days (range, 42-189). The incidence was 0.004 pectoralis major ruptures during the 11-year study period.


Pectoralis major injuries are uncommon while playing football. In the National Football League, these injuries primarily occur not during practice or while bench pressing but rather during games. When pectoralis major ruptures do occur, they are successfully treated operatively. Surgery may allow for return to full sports participation.


IV, case series.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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