Lawrence RL, Braman JP, Ludewig PM. The Impact of Decreased Scapulothoracic Upward Rotation on Subacromial Proximities. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2019 Jan 18:1-40
BACKGROUND: Decreased scapulothoracic upward rotation has been theorized to increase an individual's risk for rotator cuff compression by reducing the clearance for the tendons in the subacromial space (i.e. subacromial proximities). However, the impact of decreased scapulothoracic upward rotation on subacromial proximities has not been tested during dynamic in vivo shoulder motion.
OBJECTIVE: Determine the impact of decreased scapulothoracic upward rotation on subacromial proximities.
METHODS: Shoulder kinematics were quantified in 40 participants classified as having high or low scapulothoracic upward rotation during scapular plane abduction using single-plane fluoroscopy and 2D/3D shape-matching. Subacromial proximities were calculated as: 1) the normalized minimum distance between the coracoacromial arch and humeral rotator cuff insertion, and 2) the surface area of the humeral rotator cuff insertion in immediate proximity to the coracoacromial arch. The effect of decreased scapulothoracic upward rotation on subacromial proximities was assessed using two-factor mixed-model ANOVAs. The prevalence of contact between the coracoacromial arch and rotator cuff was also quantified.
RESULTS: Subacromial distances were generally smallest below 70° humerothoracic elevation. With the arm at the side, the normalized minimum distance for participants in the low scapulothoracic upward rotation group was 34.8% smaller compared to those in the high upward rotation group (p=0.049). Contact between the coracoacromial arch and rotator cuff tendon occurred in 45% of participants.
CONCLUSION: Decreased scapulothoracic upward rotation shifts the range of risk for subacromial rotator cuff compression to lower angles. However, the low prevalence of contact suggests subacromial rotator cuff compression may be less common than traditionally presumed.