How common are rotator cuff tears

How common are rotator cuff tears?

The incidence of partial rotator cuff tears increases with age and can result from trauma or tendon degeneration from chronic impingement:

  • Age 40 years: 33%
  • Age 50 years: 55%
  • Age 60 years: 65%
  • Age 70 years: 80%

Most are relatively asymptomatic and 30% to 50% are bilateral. Weakness may be demonstrated on supraspinatus testing (50% sensitivity, 60% specificity). Full thickness tears are less common (25% of individuals aged >60 years) and should be suspected in patients with shoulder muscle atrophy, those who “hike” the shoulder when asked to lift the arm, and in patients with a positive drop arm test (30% sensitivity, 90% specificity).

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