Forced shoulder abduction and elbow flexion test: a new simple clinical test to detect superior labral injury in the throwing shoulder

Arthroscopy. 2005 Nov;21(11):1290-5. doi: 10.1016/j.arthro.2005.08.025.


Purpose: Although several clinical tests for detecting superior labral injury of the shoulder have been reported, some of the maneuvers involved are complicated and diagnosis is still inaccurate. The purpose of this report is to introduce our forced shoulder abduction and elbow flexion test (forced abduction test) along with an assessment of its efficacy in the throwing shoulder in comparison with other clinical tests.

Type of study: Prospective nonrandomized clinical trial.

Methods: Fifty-four throwing athletes who underwent arthroscopic surgery were prospectively studied. Superior labral injury was present in 24 cases (Snyder's classification was type 2 in 22, and type 3 in 2). Several clinical tests were performed preoperatively and the results were recorded on our original chart. The condition of the superior labrum was then examined during arthroscopic surgery. The results of these tests were compared with the arthroscopic findings as a standard. The forced abduction test was defined as positive when pain at the posterosuperior aspect of the shoulder on forced maximal abduction was relieved or diminished by elbow flexion.

Results: The sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of the forced abduction test were 67%, 67%, and 67%, respectively. It was one of the most useful tests, along with the crank test and O'Brien's test (crank test, 58%, 72%, 66%; O'Brien's test, 54%, 60%, 57%; respectively). Furthermore, the results of the forced abduction test showed a significant correlation with the presence of superior labral injury (P = .0275, chi-square test).

Conclusions: The forced abduction test was technically simple and its usefulness was comparable to the O'Brien's and crank tests for diagnosing superior labral injury in throwing shoulders.

Level of evidence: Level II.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arthroscopy
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis
  • Athletic Injuries / physiopathology
  • Baseball / injuries*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cartilage, Articular / injuries*
  • Cerebral Amyloid Angiopathy
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / etiology
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / physiopathology
  • Elbow Joint / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Fibrocartilage / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Manipulation, Orthopedic*
  • Motion
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rotation
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Shoulder Joint / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Tendons / physiopathology*
  • Track and Field / injuries