Pediatric Radiology

, Volume 44, Issue 6, pp 729–737

Rotator cuff tears in children and adolescents: experience at a large pediatric hospital

  • Andrew M. Zbojniewicz
  • Matthew E. Maeder
  • Kathleen H. Emery
  • Shelia R. Salisbury
Original Article



Prior literature, limited to small case series and case reports, suggests that rotator cuff tears are rare in adolescents. However, we have identified rotator cuff tears in numerous children and adolescents who have undergone shoulder MRI evaluation.


The purpose of this study is to describe the prevalence and characteristics of rotator cuff tears in children and adolescents referred for MRI evaluation of the shoulder at a large pediatric hospital and to correlate the presence of rotator cuff tears with concurrent labral pathology, skeletal maturity and patient activity and outcomes.

Materials and methods

We reviewed reports from 455 consecutive non-contrast MRI and magnetic resonance arthrogram examinations of the shoulder performed during a 2-year period, and following exclusions we yielded 205 examinations in 201 patients (ages 8–18 years; 75 girls, 126 boys). Rotator cuff tears were classified by tendon involved, tear thickness (partial or full), surface and location of tear (when partial) and presence of delamination. We recorded concurrent labral pathology when present. Physeal patency of the proximal humerus was considered open, closing or closed. Statistical analysis was performed to evaluate for a relationship between rotator cuff tears and degree of physeal patency. We obtained patient activity at the time of injury, surgical reports and outcomes from clinical records when available.


Twenty-five (12.2%) rotator cuff tears were identified in 17 boys and 7 girls (ages 10–18 years; one patient had bilateral tears). The supraspinatus tendon was most frequently involved (56%). There were 2 full-thickness and 23 partial-thickness tears with articular-side partial-thickness tears most frequent (78%). Insertional partial-thickness tears were more common (78%) than critical zone tears (22%) and 10 (43%) partial-thickness tears were delamination tears. Nine (36%) patients with rotator cuff tears had concurrent labral pathology. There was no statistically significant relationship between rotator cuff tears and physeal patency (P > 0.05). Most patients were athletes (76%). Five tears were confirmed at surgery. Poor clinical follow-up limited evaluation of patient outcomes.


Rotator cuff tears can be identified during MRI examination of symptomatic child and adolescent shoulders and often consist of tear patterns associated with repetitive microtrauma in overhead athletic activities or with single traumatic events. Rotator cuff tears are seen throughout the range of skeletal maturity, often coexist with labral tears and typically are found in athletes.


Rotator cuff tear Labral tear Magnetic resonance imaging Magnetic resonance arthrography Shoulder Children Adolescents 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew M. Zbojniewicz
    • 1
  • Matthew E. Maeder
    • 1
    • 3
  • Kathleen H. Emery
    • 1
  • Shelia R. Salisbury
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Radiology, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical CenterUniversity of Cincinnati College of MedicineCincinnatiUSA
  2. 2.Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical CenterUniversity of Cincinnati College of MedicineCincinnatiUSA
  3. 3.Department of RadiologyLenox Hill HospitalNew YorkUSA

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