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Rotator cuff injuries in adolescent athletes

Weiss, Jennifer M.a; Arkader, Alexandrea; Wells, Lawrence M.b; Ganley, Theodore J.b

Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics B: March 2013 - Volume 22 - Issue 2 - p 133–137
doi: 10.1097/BPB.0b013e3283547001
Upper Limb

The cause of rotator cuff injuries in the young athlete has been described as an overuse injury related to internal impingement. Abduction coupled with external rotation is believed to impinge on the rotator cuff, specifically the supraspinatus, and lead to undersurface tears that can progress to full-thickness tears. This impingement is believed to be worsened with increased range of motion and instability in overhead athletes. A retrospective review of seven patients diagnosed with rotator cuff injuries was performed to better understand this shoulder injury pattern. The type of sport played, a history of trauma, diagnosis, treatment method, and outcome were noted. Six patients were male and one was a female. Baseball was the primary sport for four patients, basketball for one, gymnastics for one, and wrestling for one. The following injury patterns were observed: two patients tore their subscapularis tendon, two sustained avulsion fractures of their lesser tuberosity, one tore his rotator interval, one tore his supraspinatus, and one avulsed his greater tuberosity. Only four patients recalled a specific traumatic event. Three patients were treated with arthroscopic rotator cuff repair, three with miniopen repair, and one was treated with rehabilitation. Six of the seven patients returned to their preinjury level of sport after treatment. Rotator cuff tears are rare in the adolescent age group. The injury patterns suggest that acute trauma likely accounts for many rotator cuff tears and their equivalents in the young patient. Adolescents with rotator cuff tears reliably return to sports after treatment. The possibility of rotator cuff tears in skeletally immature athletes should be considered. The prognosis is very good once this injury is identified and treated.

aKeck School of Medicine, Children’s Orthopaedic Center, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California

bChildren’s Hospital Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Correspondence to Jennifer M. Weiss, MD, Keck School of Medicine, Children’s Orthopaedic Center, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, University of Southern California, 4650 W Sunset Blvd., Mailstop #69, Los Angeles, CA 90027, USA Tel: +1 323 361 4658; fax: +1 323 361 1310; e-mail:

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.