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J Orthop Res. 2005 Jul;23(4):924-30. Epub 2005 Jan 25.

Inhomogeneous mechanical behavior of the human supraspinatus tendon under uniaxial loading.

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Research Service and Geriatrics Research, Education, and Clinical Center, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Miami, FL, USA.


Disorders of the rotator cuff, particularly tears of the rotator cuff tendons, cause significant shoulder disability. Among numerous factors thought to be responsible for the initiation and progression of supraspinatus tears are those related to the tendon's biomechanical properties. We hypothesized that in supraspinatus tendons subjected to tensile loading a strain gradient (difference) exists between the articular and bursal tendon surfaces, that regional strain differences exist on each of these two tendon surfaces, and that tendon surface strains vary with glenohumeral abduction. To test these hypotheses, the intrinsic inhomogeneous deformational characteristics of the articular and bursal surfaces of eight intact human cadaveric supraspinatus tendons were studied at three glenohumeral abduction angles using a novel multiple strain measuring system which simultaneously recorded surface marker displacements on two opposing soft tissue surfaces. Under applied tensile loads, the articular surface exhibited greater strain at 22 degrees (7.4+/-2.6% vs. 1.3+/-0.7%, p=0.0002) and 63 degrees (6.4+/-1.6% vs. 2.7+/-1.2%, p=0.0001) whereas the bursal surface exhibited greater strain at 90 degrees (7.6+/-2.8% vs. 4.9+/-0.4%, p=0.013). At all abduction angles, insertion strains were higher than those of the mid-tendon and tendon-muscle junction regions. The existence of inhomogeneous surface strains in the intact supraspinatus tendon demonstrates that intratendinous shear occurs within the tendon. The higher strain on the articular side of the tendon, especially at the insertion region, suggests a propensity for tears to initiate in the articular tendinous zone.

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