The biomechanics of the rotator cuff in health and disease – A narrative review

Akhtar, Ahsan, Richards, James orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-4004-3115 and Monga, Puneet (2021) The biomechanics of the rotator cuff in health and disease – A narrative review. Journal of Clinical Orthopaedics and Trauma, 18 . pp. 150-156. ISSN 0976-5662

[thumbnail of Author Accepted Manuscript]
PDF (Author Accepted Manuscript) - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.


Official URL:


The rotator cuff has an important role in the stability and function of the glenohumeral joint. It is a complex anatomic structure commonly affected by injury such as tendinopathy and cuff tears. The rotator cuff helps to provide a stabilising effect to the shoulder joint by compressing the humeral head against the glenoid cavity via the concavity compression mechanism. To appreciate the function of the cuff it is imperative to understand the normal biomechanics of the cuff as well as the mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of cuff disease.

The shoulder joint offers a wide range of motion due to the variety of rotational moments the cuff muscles are able to provide. In order for the joint to remain stable, the cuff creates a force couple around the glenohumeral joint with coordinated activation of adjacent muscles, which work together to contain the otherwise intrinsically unstable glenohumeral joint and prevent proximal migration of the humerus. Once this muscular balance is lost, increased translations or subluxation of the humeral head may result, leading to changes in the magnitude and direction of the joint reaction forces at the glenohumeral joint. These mechanical changes may then result in a number of clinical presentations of shoulder dysfunction, disease and pain.

This narrative review aims to highlight the importance of functional rotator cuff biomechanics whilst assessing the kinetics and kinematics of the shoulder joint, as well as exploring the various factors involved in cuff disease.

Repository Staff Only: item control page