Background Knowledge about the pattern of rotation during arm elevation is necessary for a full understanding of shoulder function, and it is also useful for planning of rehabilitation protocols to restore range of motion in shoulders in disorder. However, there are insufficient in vivo data available.
Methods We investigated dynamic arm rotation during elevation in different planes using 30 shoulders in 15 healthy men (age range 21–33 years). Both arms were moved from neutral dependent position to maximum elevated position in 4 planes from laterally to anteriorly, and each dynamic course of motion was traced using a 3-dimensional motion capture system.
Results Patterns of rotation were categorized as being one of 2 types, depending on whether or not external rotation peaked before the arm reached the maximum elevated position. External rotation peaked at 122˚ (SD14) of abduction, then decreased according to the arm movement in the lateral planes, but increased gradually to maximum elevated position in the anterior planes. Mean maximal angles of external rotation (in degrees) during elevation were 27 (SD11), 13 (SD13), 3 (SD9), and 3 (SD5), from laterally to anteriorly.
Interpretation There were differences in rotational patterns, and more external rotation was needed to reach maximum elevation in lateral planes than in anterior planes.