In vivo supraspinatus muscle contractility and architecture in rabbit

Sydnee A. Hyman, Mackenzie B. Norman, Shanelle N. Dorn, Shannon N. Bremner, Mary C. Esparza, Richard L. Lieber, Samuel R. Ward*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The rotator cuff (RC) muscles are crucial in moving and stabilizing the glenohumeral joint, and tears can be functionally devastating. Chronic fatty and fibrotic muscle changes, which are nonresponsive to surgical tendon repair, are a focus of contemporary research. The rabbit model recapitulates key biological features of human RC tears, but function and physiology are poorly characterized; limited force and stress data are inconsistent with literature norms in other mammalian species. Here, we present an improved method to assess the physiology of the rabbit supraspinatus muscle (SSP), and we report values for healthy SSP architecture and physiology. Using female New Zealand White Rabbits (n = 6) under 2% isoflurane anesthesia, we surgically isolated the SSP and maximum isometric force measured at 4–6 muscle lengths. Architectural analysis was performed, and maximum isometric stress was computed. Whole muscle length-tension curves were generated using architectural measurements to compare experimental physiology to theoretical predictions. Maximum isometric force (80.87±5.58 N) was dramatically greater than previous reports (11.06 and 16.1 N; P < 0.05). Architectural measurement of fiber length (34.25±7.18 mm), muscle mass (9.9±0.93 g), pennation angle (23.67± 8.32°), and PCSA (2.57±0.20 cm2) were consistent with prior literature. Isometric stress (30.5±3.07 N/cm2) was greater than previous reports of rabbit SSP (3.10 and 4.51 N/cm2), but similar to mammalian skeletal muscles (15.7–30.13 N/cm2). Previous studies underestimated peak force by ~90%, which has profound implications for interpreting physiological changes as a function of disease state. The data that are presented here enable understanding the physiological implications of disease and repair in the RC of the rabbit. NEW & NOTEWORTHY We introduce an improved method to assess rabbit supraspinatus muscle physiology. Maximum isometric force measured for the rabbit supraspinatus was dramatically greater than previous reports in the literature. Consequently, the isometric contractile stress reported is almost 10 times greater than previous reports of rabbit supraspinatus, but similar to available literature of other mammalian skeletal muscle. We show that previous reports of peak supraspinatus isometric force were sub-physiological by ~90%.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1405-1412
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 11 2020


  • Architecture
  • Muscle force
  • Muscle physiology
  • Muscle stress
  • Rotator cuff

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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