Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of jathtrainLink to Publisher's site
J Athl Train. 2000 Jul-Sep; 35(3): 364–372.
PMCID: PMC1323398

The Role of the Scapula in the Rehabilitation of Shoulder Injuries

Michael L. Voight, DPT, OCS, SCS, ATC and Brian C. Thomson, SPT



To present a clinical understanding of the role the scapula plays in the mechanics of shoulder function and specialized techniques for the rehabilitation of injuries around the shoulder girdle.


The scapular musculature is often neglected in the evaluation and treatment of shoulder injuries. This lack of attention often degenerates into the incomplete evaluation and rehabilitation of scapular dysfunction. Dysfunction or weakness of the scapular stabilizers often results in altered biomechanics of the shoulder girdle. The altered biomechanics can result in (1) abnormal stresses to the anterior capsular structures, (2) the increased possibility of rotator cuff compression, and (3) decreased performance.


We review the anatomy and role of the scapula, the pathomechanics of injury and dysfunction, and the evaluation and rehabilitation of the scapula.

Clinical Advantage:

Knowledge of how the scapular muscles influence function at the shoulder builds a strong foundation for the clinician to develop rehabilitation programs for the shoulder.

Full text

Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (4.6M), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Paine RM, Voight M. The role of the scapula. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1993 Jul;18(1):386–391. [PubMed]
  • Peat M. Functional anatomy of the shoulder complex. Phys Ther. 1986 Dec;66(12):1855–1865. [PubMed]
  • Bigliani LU, Codd TP, Connor PM, Levine WN, Littlefield MA, Hershon SJ. Shoulder motion and laxity in the professional baseball player. Am J Sports Med. 1997 Sep-Oct;25(5):609–613. [PubMed]
  • Kamkar A, Irrgang JJ, Whitney SL. Nonoperative management of secondary shoulder impingement syndrome. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1993 May;17(5):212–224. [PubMed]
  • Jobe FW, Pink M. Classification and treatment of shoulder dysfunction in the overhead athlete. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1993 Aug;18(2):427–432. [PubMed]
  • Kibler WB. The role of the scapula in athletic shoulder function. Am J Sports Med. 1998 Mar-Apr;26(2):325–337. [PubMed]
  • DiVeta J, Walker ML, Skibinski B. Relationship between performance of selected scapular muscles and scapular abduction in standing subjects. Phys Ther. 1990 Aug;70(8):470–479. [PubMed]
  • Bak K, Faunø P. Clinical findings in competitive swimmers with shoulder pain. Am J Sports Med. 1997 Mar-Apr;25(2):254–260. [PubMed]
  • McMahon PJ, Jobe FW, Pink MM, Brault JR, Perry J. Comparative electromyographic analysis of shoulder muscles during planar motions: anterior glenohumeral instability versus normal. J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 1996 Mar-Apr;5(2 Pt 1):118–123. [PubMed]
  • Poppen NK, Walker PS. Normal and abnormal motion of the shoulder. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1976 Mar;58(2):195–201. [PubMed]
  • Bagg SD, Forrest WJ. Electromyographic study of the scapular rotators during arm abduction in the scapular plane. Am J Phys Med. 1986 Jun;65(3):111–124. [PubMed]
  • Moseley JB, Jr, Jobe FW, Pink M, Perry J, Tibone J. EMG analysis of the scapular muscles during a shoulder rehabilitation program. Am J Sports Med. 1992 Mar-Apr;20(2):128–134. [PubMed]
  • Kibler WB. Biomechanical analysis of the shoulder during tennis activities. Clin Sports Med. 1995 Jan;14(1):79–85. [PubMed]
  • Kuhn JE, Plancher KD, Hawkins RJ. Scapular Winging. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 1995 Nov;3(6):319–325. [PubMed]
  • Glousman R, Jobe F, Tibone J, Moynes D, Antonelli D, Perry J. Dynamic electromyographic analysis of the throwing shoulder with glenohumeral instability. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1988 Feb;70(2):220–226. [PubMed]
  • Warner JJ, Micheli LJ, Arslanian LE, Kennedy J, Kennedy R. Scapulothoracic motion in normal shoulders and shoulders with glenohumeral instability and impingement syndrome. A study using Moiré topographic analysis. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1992 Dec;(285):191–199. [PubMed]
  • Carpenter JE, Blasier RB, Pellizzon GG. The effects of muscle fatigue on shoulder joint position sense. Am J Sports Med. 1998 Mar-Apr;26(2):262–265. [PubMed]
  • Voight ML, Hardin JA, Blackburn TA, Tippett S, Canner GC. The effects of muscle fatigue on and the relationship of arm dominance to shoulder proprioception. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1996 Jun;23(6):348–352. [PubMed]
  • Gowan ID, Jobe FW, Tibone JE, Perry J, Moynes DR. A comparative electromyographic analysis of the shoulder during pitching. Professional versus amateur pitchers. Am J Sports Med. 1987 Nov-Dec;15(6):586–590. [PubMed]
  • Davies GJ, Dickoff-Hoffman S. Neuromuscular testing and rehabilitation of the shoulder complex. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1993 Aug;18(2):449–458. [PubMed]

Articles from Journal of Athletic Training are provided here courtesy of National Athletic Trainers Association