Last Sunday, defensive end Ray McDonald suffered an arm injury in the second half against the Houston Texans. McDonald underwent an MRI exam and subsequently stated he suffered a partially torn biceps tendon. McDonald will seek surgery to repair the tear in the off-season, but he stated his intention to play through the injury.
The biceps tendons attach the biceps muscle to your shoulder and in the elbow. McDonald grabbed the upper part of the arm, evidently where he felt pain in the form of a "bee sting." From the location of the pain, it appears McDonald has suffered a proximal biceps tear at the shoulder. Because there are two tendons attaching the muscle to the shoulder, many people can still use their biceps even after complete tears.
Partial tears can be healed without surgery, but strength is almost always lost. McDonald has indicated he has lost no strength at this point, but it is only a matter of time before that happens. By continuing to play, the tendon can actually retract into the shoulder, requiring a more invasive surgery down the road. And, McDonald takes a risk of the tendon completely rupturing. Apparently, he knows the risk and is willing to take that chance.
Athletes usually elect surgery regardless, because surgery ensures better recovery with full strength. McDonald knows surgery is inevitable. If he can tolerate the pain, he will take the chance even if it causes more damage down the road.
Playing with a torn biceps tendon is nothing to scoff at. Although the muscle is not as big as the triceps; and, therefore, used less, playing with a partial tear in the tendon is extremely difficult. McDonald will experience a lot of cramping, popping/sliding of the tendon, eventually loss of strength and very sharp, severe pain. Be prepared to see McDonald experience some setbacks as time goes on. Back up defensive ends include Tony Jerod-Eddie and Demarcus Dobbs, who can be rotated in as needed. Second round draft pick, Tank Carradine is also expected to begin practicing after Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals.
In the NFL, every player deals with some sort of ailment. It comes with the job-description. Pain tolerance needs to be high to survive long-term in the NFL, because all players are expected to play and perform through pain. As cruel as it sounds, it is part of the game. McDonald appears to be up for the challenge.