How common are rotator cuff disorders?

The wear and tear from ordinary use on the group of tendons and muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint (rotator cuff) makes it common for people over 40 years of age to have some loss of strength and movement in the shoulder.

  • Loss of function is caused by things such as age and the amount of activity with overhead arm movements.
  • As the rotator cuff becomes weaker with age, it is more likely to be injured (torn) by simple movements, such as lifting an object. Complete tears are present in 25% of people over age 60.1

Overuse of the rotator cuff muscles is common in young athletes involved in throwing, swimming, and racquet sports.

Rotator cuff tears are not common in people under 40 unless they have a sudden and severe (acute) injury.

Citations

  1. Andrews JR, ed. (2005). Impingement syndrome, Procedure—subacromial bursa injection, Overhead throwing shoulder, and Rotator cuff tears sections of Shoulder. In LY Griffin, ed., Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care, 3rd ed., pp. 188–193. Rosemont, IL: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and American Academy of Pediatrics.

Last Updated: January 7, 2010

Author: Shannon Erstad, MBA/MPH

Medical Review: William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine & Patrick J. McMahon, MD - Orthopedics

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