Effect of partial-thickness tear on loading capacities of the supraspinatus tendon: a finite element analysis

Comput Methods Biomech Biomed Engin. 2016;19(8):875-82. doi: 10.1080/10255842.2015.1075012. Epub 2015 Aug 20.


Partial-thickness tears of the supraspinatus tendon frequently occur at its insertion on the greater tubercule of the humerus, causing pain and reduced strength and range of motion. The goal of this work was to quantify the loss of loading capacity due to tendon tears at the insertion area. A finite element model of the supraspinatus tendon was developed using in vivo magnetic resonance images data. The tendon was represented by an anisotropic hyperelastic constitutive law identified with experimental measurements. A failure criterion was proposed and calibrated with experimental data. A partial-thickness tear was gradually increased, starting from the deep articular-sided fibres. For different values of tendon tear thickness, the tendon was mechanically loaded up to failure. The numerical model predicted a loss in loading capacity of the tendon as the tear thickness progressed. Tendon failure was more likely when the tendon tear exceeded 20%. The predictions of the model were consistent with experimental studies. Partial-thickness tears below 40% tear are sufficiently stable to persist physiotherapeutic exercises. Above 60% tear surgery should be considered to restore shoulder strength.

Keywords: Shoulder; loading capacity; supraspinatus tendon tear.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Finite Element Analysis*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Rupture
  • Tendons / physiopathology*
  • Weight-Bearing