Injury: Rotator Cuff Tear

What is a Rotator Cuff Tear?
A rotator cuff tear or torn rotator cuff is very common in a wide range of sports such as baseball, tennis, golf, volleyball, hockey, and football. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that serve as the primary stabilizer for the shoulder. These sports all put athletes in positions where the arm is over-extended from the body causing these tendons and rotator cuff muscles to become less stable and more susceptible to a rotator cuff tear. In most cases a shoulder injury such as a torn rotator cuff can be suspected due to pain and weakness in the back of the shoulder and typically when raising your arm or extending it from the body. It is important to consult with a physician if a rotator cuff tear is suspected because the only way to get an official diagnosis is to determine the extent of the shoulder injury is through Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

Medical Definition of a Rotator Cuff Tear
Their are four rotator cuff muscles: the supraspinatus, the infraspinatus, the subscapularis, and the teres minor. These muscles form a cover around the head of the humerus and function to rotate the arm and stabilize the humeral head against the glenoid. A rotator cuff tear can occur with an acute injury, but most are the result of age-related degeneration, chronic mechanical impingement, and altered blood supply to the tendons. A torn rotator cuff generally originates in the supraspinatus tendon and can progress posteriorly and anteriorly. Full-thickness tears are uncommon in individuals younger than 40 years of age, but are present in 25% of individuals over 60 years of age. Most older people are asymptomatic or have only mild, nondisabling symptoms.

Synonyms
- Rotator Cuff Rupture
- Rotator Cuff Tendinitis
- Torn Rotator Cuff


What are the symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Tear?
- Recurring shoulder pain with specific injury that triggered onset of pain.
- Difficulty sleeping due to increased pain at night.
- Arm catches when lifting arm over the head.
- Weakness in the shoulder is a commonly seen rotator cuff tear symptom.
- Individual tends to hold arm on affected side.


Related Injuries
- Shoulder Impingement
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Labrum Tear
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Frozen Shoulder

Treatment of Rotator Cuff Tear
- Proper usage of NSAIDS.
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Strengthening exercises of the rotator cuff muscles and arm.
- Light
stretching exercises of the rotator cuff muscles to help maintain range of motion.
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Corticosteroid injection may be used to provide short term relief of pain.

Surgery
- Rotator Cuff Surgery

Related Anatomy
- Rotator Cuff
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Shoulder Blade

Sports
- Football
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Baseball
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Hockey
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Golf
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Tennis
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Volleyball

Related Articles
- How to Rehab the Shoulder After Rotator Cuff Surgery

References
Greene W.B. (Ed). (2001). Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care.Rosemont, Il: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (141-143)