The supraspinatus tendon is frequently involved in rotator cuff tears. It has been suggested that joint position affects the structural mechanics of the tendon-bone complex. The purpose of this study was to determine regional variations in structural properties of the supraspinatus tendon in two glenohumeral positions. Supraspinatus tendons from 17 fresh frozen cadavers were divided into three strips of equal width and tested with a material-testing machine. The arm orientation was either in hanging position or 60 degrees glenohumeral abduction corresponding to 90 degrees arm abduction assuming 30 degrees scapular rotation. Tensile force, tendon elongation and failure mode were recorded. Overall, there was no significant difference in structural properties between hanging arm position and 60 degrees of glenohumeral abduction (p > 0.05). However, the mean ultimate load (385 N, SD 56 N) and mean ultimate stress (14 MPa, SD 3 MPa) of the anterior tendon section with the arm in glenohumeral abduction were lower in 60 degrees abduction than in the hanging arm position (611 N, SD 276 N; 24 MPa, SD 10 MPa). In hanging arm position, the anterior tendon portion had a significantly greater ultimate load and stiffness than the middle and posterior portions (p < 0.05). The regional variation in structural properties substantiates the clinical finding that rotator cuff ruptures easily extend posteriorly. Our study suggests that glenohumeral abduction reduces the failure strength of the supraspinatus tendon, specifically of its anterior portion. In our study, the maximum load of the anterior portion was substantially higher than predicted maximum loads transmitted physiologically through the entire tendon.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine