Objective: To measure the motor performance of arms in patients with chronic unilateral tennis elbow.
Design: Cross-sectional case-control study.
Setting: University hospital clinic admitting chronic hand patients.
Subjects: Thirty-two patients with chronic unilateral tennis elbow syndrome and 32 age- and gender-matched controls.
Main outcome measures: The motor performance of arms was measured with the Human Performance Measurement/Basic Elements of Performance system using the module for hands and the protocol of the device. Reaction times, speed of movement, and coordination as a combination of speed of movement and accuracy (number of correct hits) were measured. The results were compared between patients and controls.
Results: Simple one-choice and two-choice reaction times were 19% to 36% slower in the patients than in the controls, and speed of movement was 31% to 32% slower in the patients than in the controls. The differences were statistically significant. The coordination results were 9.6bits/sec in the patients and 9.7bits/sec in the controls. The difference was not statistically significant. The reaction times and speed of movement did not differ significantly between the patients' involved and healthy arms. The patients' healthy arms showed significantly slower reaction times and speed of movement than the corresponding arms of the controls.
Conclusions: Unilateral chronic tennis elbow patients have bilaterally decreased reaction times and speed of movement of arms compared with age- and gender-matched controls. The cause for this phenomenon is unclear; the decreased motor performance may be primary and show an increased susceptibility to develop the tennis elbow syndrome or it may be a result of chronicity.