Kinematics is recommended for the quantitative assessment of upper limb movements. The aims of this study were to determine the age effects on upper limb kinematics and establish normative values in healthy subjects. Three hundred and seventy healthy subjects, aged 3-93 years, participated in the study. They performed two unidirectional and two geometrical tasks ten consecutive times with the REAplan, a distal effector robotic device that allows upper limb displacements in the horizontal plane. Twenty-six kinematic indices were computed for the four tasks. For the four tasks, nineteen of the computed kinematic indices showed an age effect. Seventeen indices (the accuracy, speed and smoothness indices and the reproducibility of the accuracy, speed and smoothness) improved in young subjects aged 3-30 years, showed stabilization in adults aged 30-60 years and declined in elderly subjects aged 60-93 years. Additionally, for both geometrical tasks, the speed index exhibited a decrease throughout life. Finally, a principal component analysis provided the relations between the kinematic indices, tasks and subjects' age. This study is the first to assess age effects on upper limb kinematics and establish normative values in subjects aged 3-93 years.
Keywords: Biomechanics; Healthy volunteers; Kinematics; Normative values; Outcome assessment; Robotics.