Increased Glenohumeral Joint Loads Due to a Supraspinatus Tear Can Be Reversed With Rotator Cuff Repair: A Biomechanical Investigation

Published:November 18, 2021DOI:


      To evaluate the effect of an isolated full-thickness supraspinatus (SSP) tear on glenohumeral kinematics and contact mechanics, as well as to quantify improvement following rotator cuff repair (RCR).


      Ten fresh-frozen cadaveric shoulders (mean age: 63.1 ± 4.6 years) were tested using a dynamic shoulder simulator. A pressure-mapping sensor was placed between the humeral head and the glenoid. Each specimen underwent the following three conditions: 1) native, 2) isolated full-thickness SSP tear, and 3) RCR. Maximum abduction angle (MAA) and superior humeral head migration (SHM) were measured using 3D motion tracking software. Cumulative deltoid force (CDF) and glenohumeral contact mechanics, including contact area (GCA) and contact pressure (GCP), were assessed at the resting position, as well as at 15°, 30°, 45°, and 60° of glenohumeral abduction.


      Compared to native, the SSP tear resulted in a significant decrease in MAA (Δ−8.3°; P < .001) along with a SHM of 6.4 ± 3.8 mm, while significantly increasing CDF (Δ20.5 N; P = .008), GCP (Δ63.1 kPa; P < .001), and peak GCP (Δ278.6 kPa; P < .001), as well as decreasing GCA (Δ−45.8 mm2; P < .001) at each degree of abduction. RCR reduced SHM to 1.2 ± 2.5 mm, while restoring native MAA, CDF (Δ1.8 N), GCA (Δ4.5 mm2), GCP (Δ−4.5 kPa) and peak GCP (Δ19.9 kPa) at each degree of abduction (P > .999, respectively).


      In a dynamic biomechanical cadaveric model, increased glenohumeral joint loads due to a full-thickness SSP tear can be reversed with RCR. More specifically, RCR restored native glenohumeral contact area and contact pressure, while preventing superior humeral head migration and decreasing compensatory deltoid forces.

      Clinical Relevance

      These time 0 observations indicate that undergoing rotator cuff repair may prevent the development of degenerative changes by significantly reducing glenohumeral joint loads and ensuring sufficiently stable joint kinematics.

      Key Words

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