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

ile rotator cuff tears can strike anyone following a traumatic injury, most develop among men and women over the age 40 after years of repetitive stress or overuse take their toll on the relevant muscles. Weakness and/or pain when lowering or lifting the arm could be a sign of a tear, the AAOS warns.

Rotator cuff trouble may be especially problematic for the disabled, according to a second study also expected to be presented at the AAOS meeting. Researchers led by Dr. Michael Akbar of the University of Heidelberg, Germany, found evidence of rotator cuff injury in almost half of wheelchair-bound paraplegic patients, with the risk of such injuries rising 5 percent for each year of wheelchair dependency.

In the study by Tashjian and Cannon-Albright, the researchers sifted through the Utah Population Database (UPD), which pairs health data with genealogical records concerning millions of Utah residents.

"The people who grow up in Utah tend to stay here," Tashjian noted, and the data "often contains information on three, four, or even five generations of any one family."

The study authors found that the risk for developing rotator cuff disease was "significantly elevated" among men and women related to rotator cuff patients by first or second degree.

In particular, for those under the age of 40, a "significantly elevated" risk existed if relatives, even very distant ones, had experienced a rotator cuff injury.

This all points to a genetic predisposition to rotator cuff problems, the researchers said.

"A lot of things could contribute to the onset of rotator cuff disease, but I think this shows that patients are probably predisposed or not predisposed to developing it," Tashjian said. "And at some point in the future, if we could isolate a gene or combination of genes that account for this predisposition, maybe those people who have it can engage in certain exercises or take certain precautions to preve
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