In vivo anatomy of the Neer and Hawkins sign positions for shoulder impingement

J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2006 Jan-Feb;15(1):40-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jse.2005.04.007.


The Neer and Hawkins impingement signs are commonly used to diagnose subacromial pathology, but the anatomy of these maneuvers has not been well elucidated in vivo. This 3-dimensional open magnetic resonance imaging study characterized shoulder anatomy and rotator cuff impingement in 8 normal volunteers placed in the Neer and Hawkins positions. Subacromial and intraarticular contact of the rotator cuff was graded, and minimum distances were computed between the tendon insertion sites and the glenoid, acromion, and coracoid. Both the Neer and Hawkins maneuvers significantly decreased the distance from the supraspinatus insertion to the acromion and posterior glenoid and from the subscapularis insertion to the anterior glenoid. However, the Hawkins position resulted in significantly greater subacromial space narrowing and subacromial rotator cuff contact than the Neer position. In the Hawkins position, subacromial contact of the supraspinatus and infraspinatus was observed in 7 of 8 and 5 of 8 subjects, respectively. In contrast, rotator cuff contact with the acromion did not occur in any subject in the Neer position. Intraarticular contact of the supraspinatus with the posterosuperior glenoid was observed in all subjects in both positions. Subscapularis contact with the anterior glenoid was also seen in 7 of 8 subjects in the Neer position and in all subjects in the Hawkins position. This extensive intraarticular contact suggests that internal impingement may play a role in the Neer and Hawkins signs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Rotator Cuff / pathology*
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries
  • Rupture
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / pathology*
  • Shoulder Joint / pathology*