Internal impingement of the shoulder

Am J Sports Med. 2009 May;37(5):1024-37. doi: 10.1177/0363546508324966. Epub 2008 Dec 4.


Internal impingement of the shoulder is a pathologic condition characterized by excessive or repetitive contact of the greater tuberosity of the humeral head with the posterosuperior aspect of the glenoid when the arm is abducted and externally rotated. This arm positioning leads to rotator cuff and glenoid labrum impingement by the bony structures of the glenohumeral joint. Although some degree of contact between these structures occurs under normal conditions, to date most of the orthopaedic literature has focused on internal impingement as a disease state that affects overhead athletes and is characterized by the development of articular-sided rotator cuff tears and posterosuperior labral lesions. The precise cause of these impingement lesions remains unclear. However, it is believed that varying degrees of glenohumeral instability, posterior capsular contracture, and scapular dyskinesis may play a role in the development of symptomatic internal impingement. The purpose of this article is to review the pathomechanics, clinical complaints, physical examination findings, and imaging findings that are associated with internal impingement. The results of treatment will be reviewed, and a diagnostic and therapeutic algorithm for the management of internal impingement is presented.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Arthroscopy
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Contracture / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Joint Instability / physiopathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries
  • Rupture
  • Scapula / physiopathology
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / therapy
  • Shoulder Joint / pathology
  • Shoulder Joint / physiopathology*
  • Shoulder Pain / physiopathology
  • Sports / physiology