Although both intrinsic and extrinsic factors have been implicated in the cause of rotator cuff disease, previous studies have not been designed to test hypotheses of this disease, partly because of the lack of an appropriate animal model. Thirty-three animals were evaluated according to a 34 item checklist of criteria to determine their appropriateness as an animal model for investigations on the rotator cuff. Only the rat shoulder satisfactorily fulfilled all criteria, with a prominent supraspinatus tendon passing under an enclosed arch. Once the rat was identified, 36 rats were randomized to three experimental groups. One group (n = 12) was treated with an intratendinous injection of bacterial collagenase simulating an acute intrinsic injury, another group (n = 12) was treated with an acromial alteration to reduce the subacromial space simulating an external compression, and the third group (n = 12) was treated with a combination of both modifications. Significant increases in cellularity, number of fibroblasts, and collagen disorganization were seen in all experimental tendons compared with a contralateral control group. Semiquantitative grading of histologic sections revealed marked changes in all groups at 4 and 8 weeks. Injuries appeared to be healing at 12 weeks except in the combination group, which seemed to demonstrate persistent alterations. This study supports the rat as an appropriate model for investigating rotator cuff disease. In addition, this study demonstrates that both intrinsic and extrinsic alterations can induce changes in the supraspinatus tendon, which may have similarities to human tendon disease.