Recently, considerable importance has been ascribed to that portion of shoulder stability which may be provided by active muscle forces. Joint proprioception likely has a considerable role in muscular stabilization of the shoulder by providing information to the central nervous system for the management of muscular activity. Normal human shoulder proprioception has not yet been thoroughly characterized. We have measured shoulder joint proprioception in a population of subjects without known shoulder abnormalities by quantifying the subjects' ability to correctly detect passive shoulder rotation in the abducted shoulder. We have found absolute angular proprioception to range from an average "best" of 0.78 degrees to a "worst" of 1.08 degrees. Individuals who have clinically determined generalized joint laxity are significantly less sensitive in proprioception (P < .002). Detection of external rotation is significantly more sensitive than detection of internal rotation (P < .001). Detection of external rotation becomes significantly more sensitive as the limit of external rotation is approached. We have concluded that these findings suggest capsular tightening as one possible mechanism for shoulder proprioception.