Triathlete Lawrence Waldron is about to face the beast that sidelined him with an injury last year. In spring 2017, Waldron had been doing body weight exercises as part of his training for IRONMAN Texas’s grueling 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride and 26.2-mile run, when something went wrong.
“I had been working on a gymnastics-like move called a ‘back lever,’ where your body is hanging parallel to the floor, face down, and your arms are holding onto the bar above you. I was halfway there when I heard a snap and I fell to the ground,” Waldron remembers.
Waldron saw James Gregory MD, an orthopedic surgeon at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth who is affiliated with Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute-Memorial City. Dr. Gregory diagnosed Waldron with a torn biceps tendon.
“This is actually a very common injury, but it often happens very unexpectedly. For example, you see professional body builders experience this injury when they have to pick up something suddenly,” says Dr. Gregory. “It’s not that their muscle can’t handle the weight. It’s that their tendon isn’t prepared and it just snaps. That’s what happened with Lawrence.”
Reattaching the Torn Tendon
Waldron underwent an outpatient surgery to reattach the tendon. Dr. Gregory says a technique called the “button” effect he utilizes helps very active people like Waldron return to more quickly to being active.
“We drill a small hole in the bone, pass a button through the hole, and use the button to tie the tendon back down to the bone. This not only allows patients to move their arm soon after surgery, but it also has been proven to be a stronger repair,” says Dr. Gregory. “Most of my patients only need a few physical therapy visits and they’re back to performing everyday functions easily. However, it takes about three to four months for the injury to heal enough for activities like the ones Lawrence was participating in.”
Waldron says he can attest to the strength of the repair. He completed completing an IRONMAN competition in Wisconsin six months after his surgery.
“I had to cancel my plans for the IRONMAN Texas, but I wasn’t going to let that end my aspirations of completing an IRONMAN. Once I was cleared by Dr. Gregory, I selected another IRONMAN and began training,” says Waldron. “Considering what I went through, I was very pleased with my performance. I could’ve been faster in the swim, but I can’t be too hard on myself.”
Ready to Face the Biggest Test of All
Waldron has continued his strength and endurance training, even competing in the IRONMAN Galveston earlier this month as he sets his sights on the IRONMAN Texas this weekend.
“The injury and recovery helped me appreciate how lucky I was to be healthy and active again,” he says. “I set the goal to achieve a personal record at IRONMAN 70.3 Texas in Galveston. I trained hard, was careful to listen to my body and achieved my goal with a time of 4:52!”
Dr. Gregory says the key to a successful repair is getting to a doctor quickly.
“The tendon will lose elasticity and begin to shrink the longer someone waits to repair it. Therefore, it’s harder to stretch and reattach. That’s why I tell people if they believe they’ve injured themselves, it’s important to see the doctor as soon as possible,” advises Dr. Gregory.
Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute offers convenient, specialized care in orthopedics and sports medicine at facilities located throughout the Greater Houston area. Our affiliated physicians and therapists work with people of all ages and abilities to develop individualized and comprehensive treatment programs – from injury prevention and evaluation to orthopedic surgery and post-injury rehabilitation. Find a location near you.