The triceps muscle of the upper arm is responsible for extending or straightening the elbow joint. The triceps begins at the shoulder, extends down the back of the arm, crosses the elbow joint, and attaches onto the upper portion of the back of the forearm, or the point of the elbow (olecranon process of the ulna). At this location avulsion or rupture of the triceps tendon can occur during trauma, or indirectly during a fall onto an outstretched arm, as the deceleration stress on a contracted triceps muscle cause it to rupture, as the person attempts to brace themselves. Injuries to the triceps tendon are most common in males, especially over the age of 35. Triceps tendon tears can be either partial or complete. Partial tears are rare and occur when a portion of the tendon remains intact, but a portion of the tendon tears away from the bone. More commonly the entire tendon tears, or ruptures, and pulls away from the ulna bone.

The diagnosis of a triceps tendon tear is typically made by a combination of the patient’s history and the findings on physical examination. X-rays are frequently obtained to rule out other injuries or look for a fragment of bone which may be pulled off when the triceps tendon tears.

An MRI scan is used to confirm the diagnosis and determine whether the tear is a partial tear or a complete rupture.

The treatment of triceps tendon ruptures depends upon the extent of the tendon injury (i.e. partial tear versus complete rupture). For patients with partial tears representing less than 50% of the tendon thickness, non-surgical treatment is typically recommended initially. Non-surgical treatment consists of icing, anti-inflammatory medications, bracing, activity modifications, physical therapy, and a gradual return to activities as tolerated.

For active, healthy patients with complete tendon ruptures or partial tendon ruptures which represent more than 50% of the tendon thickness, surgical treatment is recommended. Surgical treatment is ideally performed within 2-3 weeks from the date of the initial injury before the tendon and muscle begin to scar and shorten and makes reattaching it to its native position more difficult. Surgery consists of reattaching the ruptured tendon back to its insertion on the ulna bone of the forearm.

At Oceana Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center, Dr. Aboka brings added expertise in minimally invasive treatment of Distal Triceps Tendon Tears, facilitating your return to pain-free function. These procedure are outpatient/same-day surgery, and lead to less pain and scarring and quicker recovery and return to normal function.