Reliability of scapular classification in examination of professional baseball players

Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2012 Jun;470(6):1540-4. doi: 10.1007/s11999-011-2216-0.


Background: Clinically evaluating the scapulothoracic joint is challenging. To identify scapular dyskinesis, clinicians typically observe scapular motion and congruence during self-directed upper extremity movements. However, it is unclear whether this method is reliable.

Questions/purposes: We therefore determined the interrater reliability of a scapular classification system in the examination of professional baseball players.

Methods: Seventy-one healthy uninjured professional baseball players between the ages of 18 and 32 years volunteered to participate. We used a digital video camera to film five repetitions of scapular plane elevation while holding a 2-pound weight. Four examiners then independently classified the motions on video into one of four types. Interrater reliability analysis using the kappa (k) statistic was performed for: (1) classifying each scapula into one of the four types; (2) classifying each scapula as being abnormal (Types I-III) or normal (Type IV); and (3) classifying both scapula as both being symmetric (both normal or both abnormal) or asymmetric (one normal, one abnormal).

Results: We found low reliability for all analyses. In classifying each scapula as one of the four types, reliability was k = 0.245 for the left limb and k = 0.186 for the right limb. When considering the dichotomous classifications (abnormal versus normal), reliability was k = 0.264 for left and k = 0.157 for right. For bilateral symmetry/asymmetric, reliability was k = 0.084.

Conclusion: We found low reliability of visual observation and classification of scapular movement.

Clinical relevance: Current evaluation strategies for evaluating subtle scapular abnormalities are limited.

Level of evidence: Level III, diagnostic study. See Guidelines for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Baseball / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement
  • Observer Variation
  • Physical Examination
  • Scapula / physiology*
  • Shoulder Joint / physiology*
  • Young Adult