The rotator cuff is theorized to contribute to force couples required to produce glenohumeral kinematics. Impairment in these force couples would theoretically result in impaired ball-and-socket kinematics. Although less frequently used than traditional kinematic descriptors (e.g., Euler angles, joint translations), helical axes are capable of identifying alterations in ball-and-socket kinematics by quantifying the variability (i.e., dispersion) in axis orientation and position during motion. Consequently, assessing glenohumeral helical dispersion may provide indirect evidence of rotator cuff function. The purpose of this exploratory study was to determine the extent to which rotator cuff pathology is associated with alterations in ball-and-socket kinematics. Fifty-one participants were classified into one of five groups based on an assessment of the supraspinatus using diagnostic imaging: asymptomatic healthy, asymptomatic tendinosis, asymptomatic partial-thickness tear, asymptomatic full-thickness tear, symptomatic full-thickness tear. Glenohumeral kinematics were quantified during coronal plane abduction using a biplane x-ray system and described using instantaneous helical axes. The degree to which glenohumeral motion coincided with ball-and-socket kinematics was described using the angular and positional dispersion about the optimal helical axis and pivot, respectively. No statistically significant difference was observed between groups in angular dispersion. However, symptomatic individuals with a full-thickness supraspinatus tear had significantly more positional dispersion than asymptomatic individuals with a healthy supraspinatus or tendinosis. These findings suggest that symptomatic individuals with a full-thickness supraspinatus tear exhibit impaired ball-and-socket kinematics, which is believed to be associated with a disruption of the glenohumeral force couples.
- Helical axis
- Rotator cuff pathology