The pectoralis major, the large chest muscle, can rupture at the intersection of the muscle and the tendon that attaches it to the humerus (upper arm bone). Several causes can lead to this rupture like contact sports and heavy weightlifting, especially bench press. Athletes will most likely experience a popping sensation when the rupture occurs, and he or she will experience pain, weakness, and limited mobility of the chest and upper arm. Swelling and bruising of the chest is a good indicator of a ruptured pectoralis major tendon. After examination, surgery is recommended if it is a complete tear in the tendon that attaches the pectoralis major to the humerus. A partial tear will be treated with rest, ice, and physical therapy to regain motion.
Other direct traumatic events can cause the pectoralis major to tear off of or near the sternal head (the hard bone in the center of your chest). These “proximal” (close to the center) pectoralis ruptures will be treated similarly to the partial tears as mentioned above – no surgery needed.