4/9/15

Tommy Dolan's Quads Tear: How To Avoid It From Happening To You

Warning: This video may be a bit gruesome to watch. For the full effect you need to turn on your volume.

The pop. Did you hear that double snap?

This is Tommy Dolan, an amazing powerlifter from Ireland, who suffered a career ending injury when he attempted a 600 + squat. As a competitive weightlifter this is always a fear in the back of my head. Of course this is definitely a one-in-a-million freak chance situation, but it still makes you wonder. I'm practically made of glass, and an injury like this is an all too real possibility. That being said this is possible for any weightlifter who dabbles in awe-inspiring lifts. It takes some real guts to stand under a bar and do what we do. Don't let this scare you out of lifting though. Instead, lets learn how this happened and how to prevent it.



HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

Dolan tore both of his quads at the insertion site near the knees. That's what that Pop-pop sound was. When a muscle tears from the bone at the tendon site we have to wonder a couple of things. First off, was there a prior injury that could have alluded to this gut wrenching injury? Possibly, but because both snapped that may not be the case.

Another possibility is  that the muscular strength and hypertrophy exceeded the tendon strength and hypertrophy. Strength athletes can make their muscles extremely dense and strong very fast, however, tendons require more time and different types of training to enhance hypertrophy and strength. When a powerlifter is preparing for a competition they normally have to lift very heavy with few reps, but tendons respond better to higher volume. So a lack of volume can leave tendons susceptible to freak occurrences like this.

Then there is the possibility that some form of tendon atrophy has occurred. This can happen from steroid use, previous disease, and bad luck. This wouldn't be a big deal, but Dolan is lifting freak of nature weight, which results in a freak of nature accident.

Finally, we see a mechanical break down at the bottom of his lift. Lifting a maximal load will result in some form of technical failure. It's almost impossible to lift a max with perfect technique. The goal during a max attempt should be to replicate perfect from as much as possible. The second before Dolan's quads tear and I threw up in my mouth you can see his knees turn in.
This is right before his quads tore and he dropped the weight. Notice how his knees pinch in at the bottom when compared at the beginning of his descent. 

Internal femur rotation combined with the massive weight put a lot of torsional force on his quads near the insertion site of the tendon. POP. The tendon impairment combined with all of the other factors result in a severe injury.

So how do we prevent this?

The first step is to take care of your body before you focus on strength. At the beginning of every new cycle I have my lifters perform "heavy" volume. The heavy denotes that each set will be at least 70% of their 1RM, and the volume suggests that the repetitions will be closer to hypertrophy than strength (5-10 reps rather than 1-3). This will build up mechanical efficiency and joint and tendon hypertrophy.

The next step is to use some form of progression to work up to a heavy maximum. If you are going to plan a max out you should have already been performing heavy lifts for at least 3 to 4 workouts (doing workouts with sets having 1-3 reps).

Finally, you should maintain as much good technique as possible when performing maxouts. If you can't keep your knees pushed out, back tight, or at least go to depth during workouts then you should avoid very heavy maxes.

Once you take all of this into consideration, a freak occurrence like what happened to Dolan is a lot less likely to occur.  Good luck, and good lifts.


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About Me

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BS, MS - exercise Physiology
EPC - Board Certified Exercise Physiologist

Published Thesis
The impact of three different forms of warm up on performance


The Effects of Glucose Supplementation on Barbell Velocity and Fatiguability in Weightlifting - A pilot study"

Graduate from Midwestern State University, founder of Endunamoo Barbell Club, and Endunamoo Strength and Conditioning. Working to help athletes physically reach their goals and achieve scholarships while spiritually pouring into as many people as possible on all platforms.