Copyright ©The Author(s) 2015. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Orthop. Nov 18, 2015; 6(10): 783-794
Published online Nov 18, 2015. doi: 10.5312/wjo.v6.i10.783
Collecting shoulder kinematics with electromagnetic tracking systems and digital inclinometers: A review
Daniel C Hannah, Jason S Scibek
Daniel C Hannah, Rehabilitation Sciences Program, John G. Rangos, Sr. School of Health Sciences, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282, United States
Jason S Scibek, Department of Athletic Training, John G. Rangos, Sr. School of Health Sciences, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282, United States
Author contributions: Hannah DC and Scibek JS contributed equally to this work.
Conflict-of-interest statement: None.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article which was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:
Correspondence to: Daniel C Hannah, MA, ATC, Rehabilitation Sciences Program, John G. Rangos, Sr. School of Health Sciences, Duquesne University, 600 Forbes Ave., 232 Health Sciences Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15282, United States.
Telephone: +1-412-3964766 Fax: +1-412-3964160
Received: May 28, 2015
Peer-review started: May 30, 2015
First decision: June 18, 2015
Revised: July 24, 2015
Accepted: September 7, 2015
Article in press: September 8, 2015
Published online: November 18, 2015

The shoulder complex presents unique challenges for measuring motion as the scapula, unlike any other bony segment in the body, glides and rotates underneath layers of soft tissue and skin. The ability for clinicians and researchers to collect meaningful kinematic data is dependent on the reliability and validity of the instrumentation utilized. The aim of this study was to review the relevant literature pertaining to the reliability and validity of electromagnetic tracking systems (ETS) and digital inclinometers for assessing shoulder complex motion. Advances in technology have led to the development of biomechanical instrumentation, like ETS, that allow for the collection of three-dimensional kinematic data. The existing evidence has demonstrated that ETS are reliable and valid instruments for collecting static and dynamic kinematic data of the shoulder complex. Similarly, digital inclinometers have become increasingly popular among clinicians due to their cost effectiveness and practical use in the clinical setting. The existing evidence supports the use of digital inclinometers for the collection of shoulder complex kinematics as these instruments have been demonstrated to yield acceptable reliability and validity. While digital inclinometers pose a disadvantage to ETS regarding accuracy, precision, and are limited to two-dimensional and static measurements, this instrument provides clinically meaningful data that allow clinicians and researchers the ability to measure, monitor, and compare shoulder complex kinematics.

Keywords: Biomechanics, Glenohumeral, Kinematics, Reliability, Scapulothoracic, Validity

Core tip: This review compiles the available evidence regarding the accuracy and precision of measuring glenohumeral and scapulothoracic motion with electromagnetic tracking systems and digital inclinometers. These instruments have been found to be adequately reliable and valid with the majority of measurement error originating from operator inaccuracies associated with palpation.