Effects of rotator cuff tears on muscle moment arms: A computational study

Corinne R. Adams, Mark A. Baldwin, Peter J. Laz, Paul J. Rullkoetter, Joseph E. Langenderfer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Rotator cuff tears cause morphologic changes to cuff tendons and muscles, which can alter muscle architecture and moment arm. The effects of these alterations on shoulder mechanical performance in terms of muscle force and joint strength are not well understood. The purpose of this study was to develop a three-dimensional explicit finite element model for investigating morphological changes to rotator cuff tendons following cuff tear. The subsequent objectives were to validate the model by comparing model-predicted moment arms to empirical data, and to use the model to investigate the hypothesis that rotator cuff muscle moment arms are reduced when tendons are divided along the force-bearing direction of the tendon. The model was constructed by extracting tendon, cartilage, and bone geometry from the male Visible Human data set. Infraspinatus and teres minor muscle and tendon paths were identified relative to the humerus and scapula. Kinetic and kinematic boundary conditions in the model replicated experimental protocols, which rotated the humerus from 45° internal to 45° external rotation with constant loads on the tendons. External rotation moment arms were calculated for two conditions of the cuff tendons: intact normal and divided tendon. Predicted moment arms were within the 1-99% confidence intervals of experimental data for nearly all joint angles and tendon sub-regions. In agreement with the experimental findings, when compared to the intact condition, predicted moment arms were reduced for the divided tendon condition. The results of this study provide evidence that one potential mechanism for the reduction in strength observed with cuff tear is reduction of muscle moment arms. The model provides a platform for future studies addressing mechanisms responsible for reduced muscle force and joint strength including changes to muscle length-tension operating range due to altered muscle and tendon excursions, and the effects of cuff tear size and location on moment arms and muscle forces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3373-3380
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number15
StatePublished - 2007


  • Finite element analysis
  • Moment arm
  • Rotator cuff
  • Shoulder
  • Strength


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