AIM: The etiology of rotator cuff tears is multifactorial. An important factor is the damage of the rotator cuff by narrowing of the subacromial space. The purpose of this investigation was to estimate the influence of various metrical parameters on the size of the subacromial space. METHOD: We investigated 161 human macerated scapulae, 36 of them had a known tear of the supraspinatus tendon. All scapulae were photographed in two standard positions from the front and the lateral side. Defined distances and angles were measured using an image analyzing system followed by statistical analysis. RESULTS: Shoulders with a tear of the supraspinatus tendon showed a trend towards higher incidences of hooked acromions. Furthermore we found a significant higher incidence of elongated oval shaped glenoids in the group with supraspinatus tendon tear. In comparison to normal shoulders a significantly smaller distance from the top of the glenoid to the tip of the acromion and a greater distance from the top of the glenoid to the tip of the coracoid process was measured. In addition there was a significantly smaller coracoid angle and a smaller glenoid-spinal angle in this group. CONCLUSION: The width of the subacromial space depends on various parameters. Our data suggest that besides the acromion type the shape of the coracoid, the acromial angle, the spine-scapula angle and the cavitas-spine angle should be taken into account for diagnostic and therapeutic decisions.