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The aim of this study was to investigate genetic influences on the development and progression of tears of the rotator cuff. From a group of siblings of patients with a tear of the rotator cuff and of controls studied five years earlier, we determined the prevalence of tears of the rotator cuff with and without associated symptoms using ultrasound and the Oxford Shoulder Score. In the five years since the previous assessment, three of 62 (4.8%) of the sibling group and one of the 68 (1.5%) controls had undergone shoulder surgery. These subjects were excluded from the follow-up. Full-thickness tears were found in 39 of 62 (62.9%) siblings and in 15 of 68 (22.1%) controls (p = 0.0001). The relative risk of full-thickness tears in siblings as opposed to controls was 2.85 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.75 to 4.64), compared to 2.42 (95% CI 1.77 to 3.31) five years earlier. Full-thickness tears associated with pain were found in 30 of 39 (76.9%) tears in the siblings and in eight of 15 (53.3%) tears in the controls (p = 0.045). The relative risk of pain associated with a full-thickness tear in the siblings as opposed to the controls was 1.44 (95% CI 2.04 to 8.28) (p = 0.045). In the siblings group ten of 62 (16.1%) had progressed in terms of tear size or development compared to one of 68 (1.5%) in the control group which had increased in size. Full-thickness rotator cuff tears in siblings are significantly more likely to progress over a period of five years than in a control population. This implies that genetic factors have a role, not only in the development but also in the progression of full-thickness tears of the rotator cuff.

Original publication




Journal article


J bone joint surg br

Publication Date





915 - 917


Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Female, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Rotator Cuff, Rotator Cuff Injuries, Rupture, Shoulder Joint, Shoulder Pain, Siblings