The bear-hug test: a new and sensitive test for diagnosing a subscapularis tear

Arthroscopy. 2006 Oct;22(10):1076-84. doi: 10.1016/j.arthro.2006.05.005.


Purpose: It was our intent to devise a new clinical test that would more accurately diagnose subscapularis tears than the current clinical tests. This new test is called the bear-hug test. The purpose of this study was to assess the bear-hug test and compare it with the current tests of subscapularis function (lift-off, belly-press, and Napoleon tests).

Methods: Between January 2004 and March 2004, 68 consecutive patients scheduled for an arthroscopic procedure were evaluated preoperatively; the preoperative clinical examination findings were then correlated with arthroscopic findings. Lift-off, belly-press, Napoleon, and bear-hug tests were included in the examination. Furthermore, for the belly-press and bear-hug tests, the strength was precisely quantified by means of an electronic digital tensiometer (Kern HBC). Diagnostic arthroscopy was the reference that determined the actual pathologic lesions.

Results: Subscapularis tears occurred with a prevalence rate of 29.4%. Of the subscapularis tears, 40% were not predicted by preoperative assessment by use of all of the tests. The bear-hug test was found to be the most sensitive test (60%) of all of those studied (belly-press test, 40%; Napoleon test, 25%; and lift-off test, 17.6%). In contrast, all 4 tests had a high specificity (lift-off test, 100%; Napoleon test, 97.9%; belly-press test, 97.9%; and bear-hug test, 91.7%). No statistically significant difference was found between the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of the bear-hug test and that of the belly-press test in diagnosing a torn subscapularis. However, the areas under the receiver operating characteristic curve for both the bear-hug test and the belly-press test were significantly greater than those for the lift-off and Napoleon tests (P < .05). Positive bear-hug and belly-press tests suggest a tear of at least 30% of the subscapularis, whereas a positive Napoleon test indicates that greater than 50% of the subscapularis is torn. Furthermore, a positive lift-off test is not found until at least 75% of the subscapularis is torn.

Conclusions: The bear-hug test optimizes the chance of detecting a tear of the upper part of the subscapularis tendon. Moreover, because the bear-hug test represents the most sensitive test, it can be considered to be the most likely clinical test to alert the surgeon to a possible subscapularis tear. Performing all of the subscapularis tests is useful in predicting the size of the tear.

Level of evidence: Level I, diagnostic study: testing of previously developed criteria in a series of consecutive patients with arthroscopy used as the criterion standard.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Area Under Curve
  • Arthroscopy
  • Electrodiagnosis / instrumentation
  • Electrodiagnosis / methods
  • False Negative Reactions
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscle, Skeletal / injuries*
  • Physical Examination / methods*
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • ROC Curve
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Shoulder Injuries*
  • Wounds and Injuries / diagnosis
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology