The incidence of full thickness rotator cuff tears was determined after careful dissection and inspection of 235 male and female cadavers ranging in age from 27-102 years with an average age of 64.7 years. A total of 456 shoulders were examined. Partial thickness tears were excluded from the study. Seventy-eight shoulders, 17% (53 female, 26 male) were found to have full thickness tears. The average age of those cadavers with tears was 77.8 years as compared to 64.7 years in the intact group. The incidence of full thickness tears was also found to increase with increasing age. In cadavers under 60 years of age the incidence of rotator cuff tears was 6% as opposed to 30% in those over 60 years of age.