Increased Upper Trapezius Muscle Stiffness in Overhead Athletes with Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy

Hio Teng Leong, François Hug, Siu Ngor Fu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Although excessive tension of the upper trapezius (UT) is thought to contribute to rotator cuff tendinopathy, no study examined UT tension in athletes with and without rotator cuff tendinopathy. Here we used UT shear modulus measured using ultrasound shear wave elastography as an index of muscle stiffness/tension. The aims of this study were twofold: 1) to determine whether the UT muscle shear modulus is altered in athletes with rotator cuff tendinopathy compared to asymptomatic athletes, and 2) to detect optimal cut-off points of UT shear modulus in identifying athletes with rotator cuff tendinopathy. Forty-three male volleyball players (17 asymptomatic and 26 with rotator cuff tendinopathy, mean age = 22.9±3.5 years) participated in the study. UT shear modulus was quantified during active arm holding at 30° and 60° of shoulder abduction and passive arm positioning at 0°, 30° and 60° of shoulder abduction. During the active tasks, the UT shear modulus was higher in athletes with rotator cuff tendinopathy than the asymptomatic athletes (p = 0.002), regardless the arm position. During the passive tasks, athletes with rotator cuff tendinopathy exhibited a higher UT shear modulus than asymptomatic athletes only at 0° of shoulder abduction (13.0±2.5 kPa vs 10.2±1.8 kPa, p = 0.001). When considering the active task, an optimal cut-off shear modulus of 12.0 kPa at 30° of shoulder abduction (sensitivity = 0.84, specificity = 0.57, AUC = 0.757, p = 0.008) and 9.5 kPa at 60° of shoulder abduction (sensitivity = 0.88, specificity = 0.67, AUC = 0.816, p = 0.002) was detected. When considering the passive task at 0° of shoulder abduction, a cut-off of 12.2 kPa was found (sensitivity = 0.73, AUC = 0.817, p = 0.001). Findings from the present study show that monitoring passive and active UT muscle shear modulus may provide important information for the prevention/rehabilitation of rotator cuff tendinopathy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0155187
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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