Injuries during bench press: Cracked sternum

Adults between the ages of 18-64 years must engage in muscle-strengthening exercises at least 2 times in a week. When lifting weights including bench pressing, it can satisfy this requirement and improve overall health. It is vital to perform bench press correctly since heavy bench press bars can increase the risk for a cracked sternum if not handled properly.

Possible causes

A cracked sternum can occur at its end or a small projection of the bone called xiphoid process if the bar is allowed to touch the chest too forcefully while bench pressing.

The individual can lower the bench press to brush the chest or hover right on top of the ribcage but if the bar is moved down rapidly in which it bounces off, it can result to damage.

Cracked sternum

The best way to prevent a cracked sternum during bench press is to observe proper preventive measures as part of the regular weightlifting routine.

Management of a cracked sternum

If an individual sustained a cracked sternum using a bench press bar, there are only 2 effective treatment options available – pain medications and rest. Using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are usually enough while some might require opiates or nerve blocks to effectively manage the pain.

Sustaining damage to the sternum can take several months of break from any strenuous exercise including bench pressing to properly heal. As for serious fractures, surgery is required.

Prevention

The best way to prevent a cracked sternum during bench press is to observe proper preventive measures as part of the regular weightlifting routine. It is recommended to start with light weights and gradually working up to the heavier ones that make it a struggle to control the bench press bar.

Always perform the exercise with a spotter around to help in case of trouble. The individual should mentally remind himself/herself to keep the bar off the body by holding it at 2 counts right above the chest at the base of each repetition.

What are the cracking sounds?

The individual might hear a cracking or popping sound from the chest while performing the bench press using heavy weights. If the bench press bar is not in contact with the body, the snapping sound is not the sternum but the sound of the joints in between the breastbone and ribs which are expanding and popping. Once the individual experiences swelling and chest pain after hearing the cracking sound, an anti-inflammatory medication must be given and the individual should be instructed to avoid bench press until a doctor is consulted.

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