Orthopedics & Sports Medicine

The Rotator Cuff

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that function to move the arm and stabilize the glenohumeral joint of the shoulder. This joint is where the “ball” of the humeral head fits into the “socket” of the glenoid. The four muscles that comprise the rotator cuff are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, Teres minor and subscapularis. The supraspinatus is the muscle that initiates abduction; the infraspinatus and Teres minor muscles assist the shoulder in external rotation, and the subscapularis muscle internally rotates the shoulder. A rotator cuff tear is a rupture in the tendon of any of these four muscles. The most commonly torn tendon is the supraspinatus, although rotator cuff tears can occur in all four tendons. Surgical intervention is not always necessary, especially with small tears. Repairing a torn rotator cuff tendon is typically an arthroscopic procedure in which the torn tendon is reattached to the humeral head using suture-anchors. This is an outpatient procedure and typically takes 1-2 hours.