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Br J Sports Med. 2004 Aug;38(4):413-7.

Shoulder pathoanatomy in marathon kayakers.

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University of Natal, Durban, South Africa.



To determine the prevalence of soft and hard tissue abnormalities and their interrelations in the shoulders of marathon kayakers and to examine the pathoanatomical factors that predispose these athletes to injury.


Fifty two long distance kayakers completed a questionnaire. Their shoulders were examined for range of motion, pain, and stability using a standard set of 10 clinical tests. The shoulder was subsequently scanned by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in three planes and evaluated for evidence of injury or other abnormality. The relation of clinical symptoms and MRI findings was investigated with respect to kayaker's age, number of years kayaking, and number of marathon races completed.


Thirty subjects were asymptomatic at the time of scanning, and twenty two showed symptoms of pain and/or instability. MRI showed acromioclavicular hypertrophy, acromial or clavicular spur, supraspinatus tendinitis, and partial tear of the supraspinatus as the most common abnormalities. Kayaker's age, number of years kayaking, and number of races completed did not relate significantly to symptoms or to the presence of an abnormality on MRI scan. Of all the pathoanatomical findings that are reported to predispose to rotator cuff injury, only acromial and clavicular spurs were found to correlate highly with supraspinatus muscle pathology.


Rotator cuff injuries make up a large portion of the injuries seen in marathon kayakers, about twice the number reported for sprint kayakers. These injuries are the result of secondary impingement factors associated with overuse, possibly specific to kayakers, and not the result of bony restrictions around the shoulder joint. Acromioclavicular hypertrophy is a common finding in marathon kayakers, but is possibly the result of portaging or a previous injury.

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