Disruption of the anterior–posterior rotator cuff force balance alters joint function and leads to joint damage in a rat model


Katherine E. Reuther, Stephen J. Thomas, Jennica J. Tucker, Joseph J. Sarver, Chancellor F. Gray, Sarah I. Rooney, David L. Glaser, Louis J. Soslowsky


The rotator cuff assists in shoulder movement and provides dynamic stability to the glenohumeral joint. Specifically, the anterior–posterior (AP) force balance, provided by the subscapularis anteriorly and the infraspinatus and teres minor posteriorly, is critical for joint stability and concentric rotation of the humeral head on the glenoid. However, limited understanding exists of the consequences associated with disruption of the AP force balance (due to tears of both the supraspinatus and infraspinatus tendons) on joint function and joint damage. We investigated the effect of disrupting the APforce balance on joint function and joint damage in an overuse rat model. Twenty-eight rats underwent 4 weeks of overuse to produce a tendinopathic condition and were then randomized into two surgical groups: Detachment of the supraspinatus only or detachment of the supraspinatus and infraspinatus tendons. Rats were then gradually returned to their overuse protocol. Quantitative ambulatory measures including medial/lateral, propulsion, braking, and vertical forces were significantly different between groups. Additionally, cartilage and adjacent tendon properties were significantly altered. These results identify joint imbalance as a mechanical mechanism for joint damage and demonstrate the importance of preserving rotator cuff balance when treating active cuff tear patients.

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