Who’s At Risk for a Rotator Cuff Tear?

Your shoulder is the most mobile, but least stable, joint in your body. While this joint allows you to move your upper extremity in a multitude of ranges in front, behind, and above, the fact that it’s necessary for so many daily activities makes it vulnerable to injury.

Your rotator cuff includes a group of four tendons and muscles that form a “cuff.” This cuff stabilizes the shoulder joint and keeps your arm in the shoulder socket while allowing it to move in different directions. 

A rotator cuff tear can occur from an acute injury or prolonged wear and tear. Symptoms can include pain, difficulty raising your arm, shoulder weakness or loss of motion, and a clicking or popping sound during arm movement. The condition can also exist without symptoms. 

Early diagnosis of a rotator cuff tear can facilitate recovery and the restoration of normal shoulder movement. At Metairie Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Metairie, Louisiana, orthopedic surgeon Robert Douglas Bostick III, MD, provides expert diagnosis and treatment for all types of shoulder pain, including rotator cuff tears. In this blog, Dr. Bostick explains who is at risk for a rotator cuff tear. 

Age

The risk of degenerative rotator cuff tears increases with age, becoming more common after age 35. However, people age 60 and over are more likely to develop degenerative rotator cuff injuries as the muscles succumb to repetitive use over time. 

While the incidence of rotator cuff tears in the general population is 5-30%, the prevalence of the condition is about 25% in people over age 65 and above 50% in individuals over age 80.

The correlation between age and increased risk of a rotator cuff tear may be associated with a decrease in blood supply to the tendons that can occur with age. Without a healthy blood supply, this can diminish your body’s ability to repair tendon damage, which can accelerate wear and tear damage.

Occupation

Working in certain jobs can increase your risk of a rotator cuff tear. Using your shoulder excessively on a daily basis can cause small tears in the rotator cuff. These small tears weaken the muscles and make them more susceptible to larger tears. 

Occupations, such as painting and carpentry, which often require repetitive arm motions, can make you vulnerable to this condition. And other occupations — such as firefighting and police work — which often require lifting heavy objects or climbing, can also increase your risk of developing a rotator cuff tear. 

Construction workers also fall into this category. They are prone to developing rotator cuff tears because of the repeated strain on muscles and tendons due to the frequent use of heavy machinery. 

Sports

Sports that require a repetitive force or action on the shoulder can increase your risk of developing a rotator cuff tear. Volleyball and tennis players, rowers, weightlifters, and surfers have a higher risk of developing this condition. 

Baseball players, particularly pitchers, are also prone to developing rotator cuff tears. They exert a tremendous amount of force on the rotator cuff in pitching, hitting, and throwing. As a result, shoulder injuries, such as rotator cuff tears, are the cause of most injuries in this sport

Family history 

Genetics can increase your chances of developing rotator cuff tears since rotator cuff injuries tend to occur more commonly in certain families. Research indicates that having family members with a rotator cuff tear, as far out as third-cousin relationships, can increase your risk of developing this condition. 

Traumatic injury

Experiencing a traumatic injury, such as a fall, can exert excessive force on the rotator cuff and cause a tear. Traumatic injury is the cause of most rotator cuff tears in young adults. 

Injuries in which you land on an outstretched arm are more likely to result in a rotator cuff tear. If your rotator cuff is already vulnerable to a tear as a result of age or overuse, even a minor fall can cause a rotator cuff tear. 

Prevention

If you’re at a higher-than-average risk of developing a rotator cuff tear, you can work to prevent developing the condition by taking certain steps, such as the following.

If you have a rotator cuff injury and want treatment, or if you want to learn more ways to keep from getting this injury, book an appointment online or over the phone with Metairie Orthopedics & Sports Medicine today.

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