The rotator cuff opposes superior translation of the humeral head

N. A. Sharkey, Richard A Marder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

184 Scopus citations


To determine the influence of rotator cuff muscle activity on humeral head migration relative to the glenoid during active arm elevation we studied five fresh cadaveric shoulders. The shoulder girdles were mounted in an apparatus that simulated contraction of the deltoid and rotator cuff muscles while maintaining the normal scapulothoracic relationship. The arms were abducted using four different configurations of simulated muscle activity: deltoid alone; deltoid and supraspinatus; deltoid, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis; and deltoid, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. For each simulated muscle configuration the vertical position of the humeral head in relation to the glenoid was determined at 30°, 60°, 90°, and 120° of abduction using digitized anteroposterior radiographs. Both muscle activity and abduction angle significantly influenced the glenohumeral relationship. With simulated activity of the entire rotator cuff, the geometric center of the humeral head was centered in the glenoid at 30° but had moved 1.5 mm superiorly by 120°. Abduction without the subscapularis, infraspinatus, and teres minor muscles caused significant superiorly directed shifts in humeral head position as did abduction using only the deltoid muscle. These results support the possible use of selective strengthening exercises for the infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis muscles in treatment of the impingement syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)270-275
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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