Three-dimensional scapular morphology is associated with rotator cuff tears and alters the abduction moment arm of the supraspinatus.

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Clinical biomechanics


BACKGROUND: Numerous studies have reported an association between rotator cuff injury and two-dimensional measures of scapular morphology. However, the mechanical underpinnings explaining how these shape features affect glenohumeral joint function and lead to injury are poorly understood. We hypothesized that three-dimensional features of scapular morphology differentiate asymptomatic shoulders from those with rotator cuff tears, and that these features would alter the mechanical advantage of the supraspinatus.

METHODS: Twenty-four individuals with supraspinatus tears and twenty-seven age-matched controls were recruited. A statistical shape analysis identified scapular features distinguishing symptomatic patients from asymptomatic controls. We examined the effect of injury-associated morphology on mechanics by developing a morphable model driven by six degree-of-freedom biplanar videoradiography data. We used the model to simulate abduction for a range of shapes and computed the supraspinatus moment arm.

FINDINGS: Rotator cuff injury was associated with a cranial orientation of the glenoid and scapular spine (P = .011, d = 0.75) and/or decreased subacromial space (P = .001, d = 0.94). The shape analysis also identified previously undocumented features associated with superior inclination and subacromial narrowing. In our computational model, warping the scapula from a cranial to a lateral orientation increased the supraspinatus moment arm at 20° of abduction and decreased the moment arm at 160° of abduction.

INTERPRETATIONS: Three-dimensional analysis of scapular morphology indicates a stronger relationship between morphology and cuff tears than two-dimensional measures. Insight into how morphological features affect rotator cuff mechanics may improve patient-specific strategies for prevention and treatment of cuff tears.

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