This study analyzes the results of a previously unreported technique of reconstruction for the massive irreparable rotator cuff tear. The technique involves repair of the margins of the tear to restore the force couples and "suspension bridge" system of force transmission in the shoulder. Complete coverage of the defect was not considered to be essential as long as the normal mechanics of the shoulder were restored and the rotator cuff tear was converted to a "functional cuff tear." This procedure was performed on 14 patients. Improvement in function was dramatic. Active elevation (elevation denotes the plane of motion midway between the planes of shoulder abduction and shoulder flexion; elevation is reported because it is the most functional plane in which to raise the arm) improved by 90.8 degrees: from a preoperative average of 59.6 degrees to a postoperative average of 150.4 degrees. Strength improved an average of 2.3 grades on a 0-to-5-point scale. The average score on the UCLA Shoulder Rating Scale improved from a preoperative value of 9.8 to a postoperative value of 27.6. All but one patient was very satisfied with his or her result. The authors are of the opinion that this technique is preferable to other reconstructive techniques, such as tendon transposition, that emphasize coverage of the defect at the expense of destroying the normal mechanics of the shoulder. The authors suggest that partial repair of massive irreparable rotator cuff tears should supplant tendon transposition as the procedure of choice for this condition.