Confirmation of the stabilizing role of the rotator cuff muscles

The shoulder is a notoriously unstable joint that is susceptible to a variety of pathological conditions in both athletic and elderly populations. We have examined the clinical anatomy of a number of shoulder conditions using a combination of electromyographic (EMG) and cadaveric studies over several years.

This project examines more directly the postulated stabilizing role of the rotator cuff group of muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor) that account for >80% of shoulder pathology cases. We have explored the concept of muscular stability and particularly the rotator cuff muscles in two published reviews and have published a paper establishing the basis for ultrasound guided insertion of EMG electrodes into the teres minor (a notoriously difficult task).  Our group recently completed a study establishing the reliability of a new technique for measuring shoulder translation (a measure of instability) using ultrasound. This study was conducted in collaboration with the chief sonographer from Bendigo Health. Data collection, incorporating EMG to look at the postulated stabilizing activity of the rotator cuff muscles, is well underway.  Future research will seek to establish 'proof of concept' in a population with rotator cuff pathology in collaboration with shoulder surgeons and local physiotherapy practices.