North Shore-LIJ

Bodybuilder Still Pumping Iron After Five Tendon Ruptures

If you look up the word determination in the dictionary, a picture of Ron Noreman should be front and center. Mr. Noreman is determination personified. Each morning before the sun rises, he heads to the Powerhouse Gym in Syosset or the basement of his Dix Hills home to start his rigorous training regimen in what he proudly professes to be the best-equipped home gym in the country. Once an out-of-shape kid floundering in school and lacking drive and discipline, this Dix Hills resident transformed his life through the sport of bodybuilding.

Bodybuilder Still Pumping Iron
Despite several surgeries to repair connective tissue, Mr. Noreman maintains his strict training regimen.

“I was going nowhere fast,” said Mr. Noreman. “But when I was 15, I started working out, and from that moment forward, my life did an about-face. Within six months, I brought my grade point average up from 65 to 97, and my waist size dropped from 42 to 32 inches.”

Bodybuilding redefined Mr. Noreman’s life and gave him the structure and discipline he needed to succeed. It became his passion. Today, at the ripe age of 48, Mr. Noreman is still a competitive bodybuilder, who over the past 33 years has won numerous bodybuilding championships along the east coast of the United States. He balances this with being a husband, father and partner and tax litigator at Kamler, Lewis & Noreman, Certified Public Accountants.

Over the Limit

Never one to do anything halfway or less than 1,000 percent, Mr. Noreman’s will had a life of its own and his determination to be the best tested the limits of his body. Within the last 15 years, he has sustained a total of five tendon ruptures to his arms and knees, which were incurred during the rigors of training. Neil Watnik, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with privileges at Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center who specializes in getting athletes back to their sport as quickly and safely as possible, was there to patch him up every time.

Mr. Noreman was first referred to Dr. Watnik in November 1995, when he tore the bicep tendon by his right shoulder. “I literally saw my muscle drop down to my elbow. It made my head spin,” he said. Dr. Watnik reattached his long head tendon at LIJ Medical Center, and within nine months, Mr. Noreman was back in action, training for his next competition.

Seven years later, on an April morning in 2002, Mr. Noreman was in the middle of a challenging leg workout with 1,200-pound leg presses when he felt an excruciating pop in his knees. He was immediately in agony and completely immobilized. “I had never felt pain so intense. It felt as if someone took an ax and sheared off my knees,” said Mr. Noreman. Within a few short hours, he was in the operating room again at LIJ, where Dr. Watnik worked diligently to reattach both quadricep tendons to his kneecaps.

“Ron is an extraordinary athlete, easily the most motivated patient I’ve ever had the opportunity to take care of, and that accounts for his ability to rehab and recover so swiftly,” said Dr. Watnik. “His threshold for pain is incredible. He is almost superhuman.”

Better Than Ever

Since then, Mr. Noreman has had two additional surgeries, after rupturing the bicep tendon at his elbow in 2003, and most recently, when he tore the proximal attachment to his left shoulder last December. After undergoing rehab after each surgery, he felt better than ever.

“Whatever Dr. Watnik does, he certainly has a special skill and touch,” said Mr. Noreman. “My recoveries have been challenging, but Dr. Watnik’s strong repairs gave me the ingredients for stellar comebacks.”

A relatively new development in bicep tendon repair is the use of suture anchors. Dr. Watnik used the suture anchors to sew the tendons to the shoulder and elbow. These anchors preclude the necessity of drilling holes in the bone, which lessens trauma to the patient.

“The success of Ron’s surgeries was based on ensuring the strongest fixation of the tendon to the bone,” said Dr. Watnik. “This maximizes the stability of the repair, allowing the athlete to start therapy shortly after surgery without jeopardizing the repair. That’s the key to all these surgeries. When done in close proximity to a joint, you want to start early range of motion as quickly as possible.”

After Mr. Noreman’s knee surgery in 2002, he was placed in braces instead of casts to minimize atrophy of the muscles and contracture of the joints. A joint can easily become stiff when it loses motion for even a short time, which can prolong recovery. Dr. Watnik knows these are significant issues for any athlete, but especially for Mr. Noreman since he is judged on the size and symmetry of his muscles.

An Iron Will

Mr. Noreman didn’t waste a second to begin his rehabilitation from hisdouble quad rupture, his most debilitating injury. “I told Dr. Watnik to clearly outline what I can and cannot do, but know, what you tell me I can do, I am going to do with a vengeance!” said Mr. Noreman. He wasn’t kidding; in just over one month, he was walking two miles a day, with his braces still attached and crutches in his hands.

In general, patients need to allow 12 weeks for a tendon tear to heal. During that time, a regular physical therapy regimen is crucial. After the tendon heals, patients can begin the strengthening portion of their rehabilitation, starting with light weights and progressing higher.

“Ron’s motivation took control. He was extremely disciplined about his rehab, which helped his recovery immensely,” said Dr. Watnik. “Rehab can be very difficult initially and there can be a significant amount of pain. Ron fought through the pain and did his therapy meticulously. His will got him through each of his surgeries and fueled his extraordinary recoveries.”

Lasting Impression

Mr. Noreman underwent his most recent surgery at the North Shore-LIJ Ambulatory Surgery Center, a world-class option for outpatient surgery. The center features state-of-the-art operatingrooms, recovery areas and a presurgical testing suite. It offers the highest quality outpatient surgery technology and the best practices of the North Shore-LIJ Health System in one brand-new facility.

"I was so impressed with the efficiency of this center,” said Mr. Noreman. “There were five people taking care of me when I woke up after surgery. Every nurse, from the one who drew my blood to every person in surgical recovery, couldn’t do enough for me. The flow and ease of the entire surgery process were impressive. Unfortunately I am a very experienced patient, and there are many places that are not like this. They really did a phenomenal job.”

Select physicians with privileges at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center offer expertise in orthopedic surgery. Ask your primary care physician for a referral or call 888-321-3627 (888-321-DOCS). For information on the new North Shore-LIJ Ambulatory Surgery Center, call 516-734-8000.

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