Supraspinatus tendon load during abduction is dependent on the size of the critical shoulder angle: A biomechanical analysis

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Shoulders with supraspinatus (SSP) tears are associated with significantly larger critical shoulder angles (CSA) compared to disease-free shoulders. We hypothesized that larger CSAs increase the ratio of joint shear to joint compression forces (defined as “instability ratio”), requiring substantially increased compensatory supraspinatus loads. A shoulder simulator with simulated deltoid, supraspinatus, infraspinatus/teres minor, and subscapularis musculotendinous units was constructed. The model was configured to represent either a normal CSA of 33° or a CSA characteristic of shoulders with rotator cuff tears (38°), and the components of the joint forces were measured. The instability ratio increased for the 38° CSA compared with the control CSA (33°) for a range of motion between 6° to 61° of thoracohumeral abduction with the largest differences in instability observed between 33° and 37° of elevation. In this range, SSP force had to be increased by 13–33% (15–23 N) to stabilize the arm in space. Our results support the concept that a high CSA can induce SSP overload particularly at low degrees of active abduction. © 2014 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 32:952–957, 2014.

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