The supporting role of the teres major muscle, an additional component in glenohumeral stability? An anatomical and radiological study

Med Hypotheses. 2020 Aug;141:109728. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2020.109728. Epub 2020 Apr 10.


Muscle coordination plays an important role in glenohumeral stability. The rotator cuff and the long head of the biceps are considered the primary dynamic stabilizers muscles. However, the fact that a subgroup of patients with a massive tear in the rotator cuff were able to keep a normal function, should make us question this traditional view. We hypothesize that the teres major which is also a monoarticular scapulohumeral muscle, although it is not part of the conjoined tendon of the rotator cuff, can play a role in glenohumeral stability by a direct support of the humeral head generated by the particular posteroanterior location of this muscle under the humeral head and which, as far as we know, has not been written up previously. This particular effect could appear while the arm is being lifted and the humeral head could be leaning on against the teres major muscle belly underneath it. An anatomical a radiological study was carried out to substantiate our hypothesis. Two cadaver specimens were used for the anatomical study. Frist body was studied through conventional dissection. The second body was analysed through sectional anatomy. Then a radiological study was carried out using magnetic resonance imaging in a healthy male volunteer. Both anatomically and radiologically, the anteroinferior surface of the humeral head was showed firmly resting against the muscle belly of the teres major, to the point of misshaping it from 110 degrees of arm elevation with external rotation. The specific contribution of this effect to the glenohumeral stability needs to be confirmed by further studies and can help us to prevent the high incidence of glenohumeral dislocations.

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cadaver
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Rotator Cuff / diagnostic imaging
  • Shoulder Joint* / diagnostic imaging
  • Tendons / diagnostic imaging