Validity of Clinical Measurement Instruments Assessing Scapular Function: Insufficient Evidence to Recommend Any Instrument for Assessing Scapular Posture, Movement, and Dysfunction-A Systematic Review

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2020 Nov;50(11):632-641. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2020.9265.


Objective: To determine the construct validity, criterion validity, and responsiveness of measurement instruments evaluating scapular function.

Design: Systematic review of measurement properties.

Literature search: The MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, and SPORTDiscus databases were systematically searched from inception until March 2019.

Study selection criteria: Studies published in Dutch, English, or German were included when they evaluated at least 1 of the measurement properties of interest. No restrictions were made regarding participants' health status.

Data synthesis: Two reviewers independently evaluated study quality using the COSMIN checklist and extracted and analyzed data. Quality of evidence was graded by measurement property for each distinctive type of measurement.

Results: Thirty-one measurement instruments in 14 studies were categorized into instruments to measure scapular posture and movement, and to assess scapular dyskinesis. Quality of evidence was at most moderate for 4 instruments with respect to criterion validity. Of these, criterion validity for instruments measuring scapular protraction/retraction posture and rotation angles up to 120° of thoracohumeral elevation was sufficient. Criterion validity for instruments measuring asymmetrical scapular posture, range of motion, and the lateral scapular slide test was insufficient. Quality of evidence for measurement properties of all other instruments was graded lower.

Conclusion: There is currently insufficient evidence to recommend any instrument for the clinical examination of scapular function. Measurement instruments to assess scapular dyskinesis are prone to misinterpretation and should therefore not be used as such. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2020;50(11):632-641. doi:10.2519/jospt.2020.9265.

Keywords: movement; physical examination; review; shoulder pain.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Dyskinesias / diagnosis*
  • Dyskinesias / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Movement
  • Physical Examination / methods*
  • Posture
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Scapula / physiology
  • Scapula / physiopathology*