To determine the contribution of ulnar digits to overall grip strength.
Fifty individuals (25 men and 25 women; 100 hands) with a mean age of 35.6 years (range 19 to 62 years) were tested. Exclusion criteria included previous history of hand injuries, entrapment neuropathies and systemic diseases.
Ethics approval was granted before testing. A calibrated Jamar dynamometer (Lafayette Instrument Company, USA) was used to test subjects in three configurations: entire hand – index, middle, ring and little fingers; index, middle and ring fingers; and index and middle fingers. Little and ring fingers were excluded using generic hand-based finger splints. The order of testing was kept constant, and subjects were tested three times on each hand for each configuration. The average of the three trials at each configuration was recorded. Subjects received 1 min of rest between each testing configuration. The data were analyzed using a 3×2 repeated measures ANOVA with hand dominance and configuration as the within-subject factors, followed by two independent sample t tests to compare flexor digitorum superficialis (FDS) independence and FDS nonindependence on right and left hand grip strength measurements in the index, middle, ring and little condition.
Univariate results demonstrated that grip strength was significantly predicted by the interaction between hand dominance and configuration, while the parsing of the interaction term demonstrated greater grip strength across all levels of configuration for the dominant and nondominant hand. There were no significant differences between FDS independence and FDS nonindependence for either hand on grip strength.
The results indicate a significant decrease in grip strength as ulnar fingers were excluded. Furthermore, exclusion of the little finger has differing effects on the grip strength of the dominant and nondominant hands – the dominant hand had a greater loss of strength with the little finger excluded than the nondominant hand.
The ulnar two digits play a significant role in overall grip strength of the entire hand. In the present study, exclusion of the ulnar two digits resulted in a 34% to 67% decrease in grip strength, with a mean decrease of 55%. Exclusion of the little finger from a functional grip pattern decreased the overall grip strength by 33%. Exclusion of the ring finger from a functional grip pattern decreased the overall grip strength by 21%. It is clear that limitation of one or both of the ulnar digits adversely affects the strength of the hand. In addition, there was no significant difference between grip strength of FDS-independent and FDS-nonindependent subjects for either hand.
Keywords: Grip strength, Testing, Ulnar digits