Moment arms of the deltoid, infraspinatus and teres minor muscles for movements with high range of motion: A cadaveric study


      • High moment arms are observed on a plane which is not the one from the movement.
      • Position of the glenohumeral joint induces changes in the muscular moment arms.
      • Deltoid is the main elevator.
      • Deltoid act either as an elevator or depressor, while moving the elevation plane.
      • Infraspinatus and teres minor moment arms (sign) changes after 45° of elevation.



      Moment arms are an indicator of the role of the muscles in joint actuation. An excursion method is often used to calculate them, even though it provides 1D results. As shoulder movement occurs in three dimensions (combination of flexion, abduction and axial rotation), moment arms should be given in 3D. Our objective was to assess the 3D moment arms of the rotator cuff (infraspinatus and teres minor) and deltoid muscles for movements with high arm elevation.


      The 3D moment arms (components in plane of elevation, elevation and axial rotation) were assessed using a geometric method, enabling to calculate the moment arms in 3D, on five fresh post-mortem human shoulders. Movement with high range of motion were performed (including overhead movement). The humerus was elevated until it reaches its maximal posture in different elevation plane (flexion, scaption, abduction and elevation in a plane 30° posterior to frontal plane).


      We found that the anterior deltoid was a depressor and contributes to move the elevation plane anteriorly. The median deltoid was a great elevator and the posterior deltoid mostly acted in moving the elevation plane posteriorly. The infraspinatus and teres minor were the greatest external rotator of the shoulder. The position of the glenohumeral joint induces changes in the muscular moment arms. The maximal shoulder elevation was 144° (performed in the scapular plane).


      The knowledge of 3D moment arms for different arm elevations might help surgeons in planning tendon reconstructive surgery and help validate musculoskeletal models.


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