The "bee sting" that Ray McDonald felt in his right arm two days ago turned out to be a partially torn bicep tendon, the 49ers defensive end said Tuesday. McDonald said the injury shouldn't keep him out of any games, and he plans to start in his usual spot Sunday against the Cardinals. He said he'll have surgery to repair it after the season.
"It's going to be sore," McDonald said. "But it should be fine."
McDonald has missed only one start since the 2011 season. He suffered the bicep injury in the third quarter against the Texans when he was shedding an offensive lineman on the way to sacking Matt Schaub. He immediately began clutching his arm and did not play another snap.
McDonald suffered what is known as a proximal tear, which means it was at the shoulder end of the biceps muscle. That's preferred over a distal tear - at the elbow end, in which the bicep often retracts toward the shoulder and typically requires immediate surgery.
McDonald said that he hasn't lost any strength in the arm at this point, but Dr. Dan Solomon, an orthopedic surgeon with Marin Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Novato, said that's a possibility as the season wears on. Solomon also said it's easier to repair the injury immediately than it is several months later. He said the muscle tends to atrophy a bit and the tendon can roll up on itself.
"It doesn't get an easier," he said of delaying surgery. "But I've fished them out three months down the line."
Loss of strength was a concern when the team's other starting defensive end, Justin Smith, partially tore his triceps tendon late last year. Smith ended up playing with the injury as the 49ers made their playoff push but was not nearly as effective as he was prior to the injury.
The triceps, however, is larger than the biceps and has a greater impact on overall arm strength. McDonald said his bicep looked "a little funny" but was told it should function normally. "It's too early to tell," he said of how the injury will affect him. "I'll know more as the week goes on."
Solomon noted that quarterbacks John Elway and Brett Favre suffered similar biceps injuries and that Elway's Super Bowl victories came after the injury.
The 49ers have Tony Jerod-Eddie and Demarcus Dobbs in reserve at defensive end. And rookies Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial could be available later this month. Carradine, who is nearly 11 months removed from an ACL tear, said he is back to full speed and feels as strong as he ever has.
"I started feeling normal at nine months," Carradine said. "I felt like I could go. But I still had to wait until I got the say-so from (head trainer Jeff Ferguson) and them. But I feel great."
-- Matt Barrows