Supraspinatus and Infraspinatus are the most commonly injured rotator cuff muscles. Due to the function of these muscles, sports which involve a lot of shoulder rotation – for example, bowling in cricket, pitching in baseball, swimming, kayaking – often put the rotator cuff muscles under a lot of stress.
Problems with the rotator cuff muscles can be classed into two categories – Tears of the tendons/muscles, and inflammation of structures in the joint.
This tends to happen as a result of a sudden, powerful movement. This might include falling over onto an outstretched hand at speed, making a sudden thrust with the paddle in kayaking, or following a powerful pitch/throw.
The symptoms will usually include:
Sudden, tearing feeling in the shoulder, followed by severe pain through the arm
Limited movement of the shoulder due to pain or muscle spasm
Severe pain for a few days (due to bleeding and muscle spasm) which usually resolves quickly
Specific tenderness (“x marks the spot”) over the point of rupture/tear
If there is a severe tear, you will not be able to abduct your arm (raise it out to the side) without assistance
A chronic tear develops over a period of time. They usually occur at or near the tendon, as a result of the tendon rubbing against the overlying bone. This is usually associated with an impingement syndrome.
Usually found on the dominant side
More often an affliction of the 40+ age group
Pain is worse at night, and can affect sleeping
Gradual worsening of pain, eventually some weakness
Eventually unable to abduct arm (lift out to the side) without assistance or do any activities with the arm above the head
Some limitations of other movements depending on the tendon affected