Risk factors for degenerative, symptomatic rotator cuff tears: a case-control study

Amos Song, Damien Cannon, Peter Kim, Gregory D. Ayers, Chan Gao, Ayush Giri, Nitin B. Jain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Despite the considerable public health burden of rotator cuff tears, there is no consensus on risk factors associated with symptomatic rotator cuff tears. In this study, a large data source was used to identify factors associated with symptomatic rotator cuff tears. We defined cases of rotator cuff tears as those verified by imaging or operative reports and controls as symptomatic shoulders without rotator cuff tears as verified by imaging or operative reports. Methods: We performed a case-control study of patients with and without symptomatic rotator cuff tears by use of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center de-identified electronic medical record system, the Synthetic Derivative, with records on >2.5 million patients from 1998 to 2017. Cases and controls were confirmed by individual chart review and review of imaging and/or operative notes. A final set of 11 variables were analyzed as potential risk factors for cuff tears: age, sex, body mass index (BMI), race, smoking history, hypertension, depression/anxiety, dyslipidemia, carpal tunnel syndrome, overhead activity, and affected side. Multivariable logistic regression was used to estimate the association between predictor variables and the risk of having a rotator cuff tear. Results: A total of 2738 patients were selected from the Synthetic Derivative, which included 1731 patients with rotator cuff tears and 1007 patients without rotator cuff tears. Compared with individuals without tears, those with rotator cuff tears were more likely to be older (odds ratio [OR], 2.44; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.12-2.89), to have a higher BMI (OR, 1.45; 95% CI, 1.24-1.69), to be of male sex (OR, 1.56; 95% CI, 1.32-1.85), and to have carpal tunnel syndrome (OR, 1.41; 95% CI, 1.03-1.93). Patients with rotator cuff tears were less likely to have left shoulder symptoms (OR, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.57-0.82) and to have depression/anxiety (OR, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.62-0.95) compared with the control group, which had symptomatic shoulder pain without rotator cuff tears. Conclusions: In a large imaging and operative report–verified case-control study, we identified advancing age, male sex, higher BMI, and diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome as risk factors significantly associated with an increased risk of rotator cuff tears. Left shoulder symptoms and depression/anxiety were less likely to be associated with rotator cuff tears compared with symptomatic shoulders without rotator cuff tears. Contrary to some prior reports in the literature, smoking was not associated with rotator cuff tears.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)806-812
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • Level III
  • Prognosis Study
  • Retrospective Case-Control Design
  • Rotator cuff
  • body mass index
  • case control
  • depression
  • risk factors
  • smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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