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Genes May Help Drive Rotator Cuff Injury
Date:2/25/2009

The risk is higher if even distant relatives have suffered such problems, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Genes may boost the odds of developing rotator cuff problems, according to new research that finds the shoulder injury running in families.

The finding is based on an analysis of health data on more than two million Utah residents. It showed that rotator cuff trouble among even distant relations, such as third cousins, can predict an individual's risk.

"Rotator cuff tears are very common," said study lead author Dr. Robert Tashjian, a shoulder and elbow surgeon as well as an assistant professor in the department of orthopaedics at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City. "It's the number one problem that an orthopaedic surgeon treats in terms of shoulder issues in the clinic. And yet, no one really knows exactly why they occur."

"In fact, we know a lot of people in their seventies and eighties never develop rotator cuff injuries, even though very often they engage in the same activities as people who do develop rotator cuff tears," he said. "And by the same token, many people who get the tears are actually not very active."

Based on those observations, the team speculated that "maybe some people are predisposed to developing tears for some reason," Tashjian said. "And when we looked at the information in a very extensive state-wide database, we found that there was a hereditary contribution to rotator cuff problems that extends all the way out to third-degree relatives."

Tashjian and colleague Lisa Cannon-Albright were expected to discuss the findings this week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), in Las Vegas.

According to the AAOS, the rotator cuff enables the arm to lift and rotate by holding in place the top part of the upper arm bone (humerus) through a network of muscles and tendons.

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