The aim of this study was to determine the relative contributions of the deltoid and rotator cuff muscles to glenohumeral joint stability during arm abduction. A three-dimensional model of the upper limb was used to calculate the muscle and joint-contact forces at the shoulder for abduction in the scapular plane. The joints of the shoulder girdle-sternoclavicular joint, acromioclavicular joint, and glenohumeral joint-were each represented as an ideal three degree-of-freedom ball-and-socket joint. The articulation between the scapula and thorax was modeled using two kinematic constraints. Eighteen muscle bundles were used to represent the lines of action of 11 muscle groups spanning the glenohumeral joint. The three-dimensional positions of the clavicle, scapula, and humerus during abduction were measured using intracortical bone pins implanted into one subject. The measured bone positions were inputted into the model, and an optimization problem was solved to calculate the forces developed by the shoulder muscles for abduction in the scapular plane. The model calculations showed that the rotator cuff muscles (specifically, supraspinatus, subscapularis, and infraspinatus) by virtue of their lines of action are perfectly positioned to apply compressive load across the glenohumeral joint, and that these muscles contribute most significantly to shoulder joint stability during abduction. The middle deltoid provides most of the compressive force acting between the humeral head and the glenoid, but this muscle also creates most of the shear, and so its contribution to joint stability is less than that of any of the rotator cuff muscles.
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