The relation between increased deltoid activation and adductor muscle activation due to glenohumeral cuff tears

Frans Steenbrink, Carel G.M. Meskers, Rob G.H.H. Nelissen, Jurriaan H. de Groot

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25 Citations (Scopus)


In patients with rotator cuff tears lost elevation moments are compensated for by increased deltoid activation. Concomitant proximal directed destabilizing forces at the glenohumeral joint are suggested to be compensated for by 'out-of-phase' adductor activation, preserving glenohumeral stability. Aim of this study was to demonstrate causality between moment compensating deltoid activation and stability compensating 'out-of-phase' adductor muscle activation.A differential arm loading with the same magnitude of forces applied at small and large moment arms relative to the glenohumeral joint was employed to excite deltoid activation, without externally affecting the force balance. Musculoskeletal modeling was applied to analyze the protocol in terms of muscle forces and glenohumeral (in)stability. The protocol was applied experimentally using electromyography (EMG) to assess muscle activation of healthy controls and cuff tear patients.Both modeling and experiments demonstrated increased deltoid activation with increased moment loading, which was higher in patients compared to controls. Model simulation of cuff tears demonstrated glenohumeral instability and related 'out-of-phase' adductor muscle activation which was also found experimentally in patients when compared to controls.Through differential moment loading, the assumed causal relation between increased deltoid activation and compensatory adductor muscle activation in cuff tear patients could be demonstrated. 'Out-of-phase' adductor activation in patients was attributed to glenohumeral instability. The moment loading protocol discerned patients with cuff tears from controls based on muscle activation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2049-2054
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2010


  • EMG
  • Glenohumeral joint
  • Musculoskeletal modeling]
  • Rotator cuff tear
  • Shoulder
  • Stability

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