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Interrater reliability of clinical tests to evaluate scapulothoracic motion

Evelyn Baertschi13*, Jaap Swanenburg1, Florian Brunner2 and Jan Kool3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Physiotherapy, Uniklinik Balgrist, Forchstrasse 340, 8008 Zurich, Switzerland

2 Department of Physical Medicine and Rheumatology, Uniklinik Balgrist, Zurich, Switzerland

3 Department of Health, Institute of Physiotherapy, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Winterthur, Switzerland

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2013, 14:315  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-315

Published: 5 November 2013



Decreased scapulothoracic motion has been associated with various pathologies of the shoulder. Reliable and simple assessment methods of scapular mobility are, however lacking. The aim of this study was to evaluate the interrater reliability of four clinical tests to assess scapulothoracic motion in patients with a slightly restricted shoulder flexion.


A total of nineteen patients with a symptomatic slight restriction of shoulder flexion and twenty asymptomatic subjects were evaluated. The investigation consisted of four palpatory tests to assess scapulothoracic motion. A two-level rating scale (positive, negative) was utilised. Interrater reliability was evaluated using kappa coefficients.


We found substantial to almost perfect (Kappa = 0.63-0.4) interrater reliability for the four tests.


Our study demonstrates that the four mobility tests of the shoulder are a reliable and simple instrument to assess patients with a slightly restricted shoulder flexion. Future studies should be conducted to evaluate the validity of these tests and to establish their clinical usefulness.