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Rotator Cuff Injury (cont.)

Rotator Cuff Injury Causes

Injuries to muscle-tendon units are called strains and are classified by the amount of damage to the muscle or tendon fibers. Grade I strains involve stretching of the fibers without any tears. Grade II injuries involve partial muscle or tendon tearing, and grade III injuries are defined as a complete tear of a muscle or tendon.

The muscles and tendons in the rotator cuff group may be damaged in a variety of ways. Damage can occur from an acute injury (for example from a fall or accident), from chronic overuse (like throwing a ball or lifting), or from gradual degeneration of the muscle and tendon that can occur with aging.

  • Acute rotator cuff tear
    • This injury can develop from sudden powerful raising of the arm against resistance or in an attempt to cushion a fall (for example, heavy lifting or a fall on the shoulder).
    • The injury requires a significant amount of force if person is younger than 30 years of age.
  • Chronic tear
    • Found among people in occupations or sports requiring excessive overhead activity (examples, painters, baseball pitchers)
    • The chronic injuries may be a result of a previous acute injury that has caused a structural problem within the shoulder and affected the rotator cuff anatomy or function (for example, bone spurs that impinge upon a muscle or tendon causing inflammation).
    • Repetitive trauma to the muscle by everyday movement of the shoulder
  • Tendinitis
    • Degeneration (wearing out) of the muscles with age
    • This usually occurs where the tendon attaches to bone. The area has poor blood supply and a mild injury may take a long time to heal and potentially lead to a secondary tear.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/27/2014

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