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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 1/2015

Definition of anatomical zero positions for assessing shoulder pose with 3D motion capture during bilateral abduction of the arms

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders > Ausgabe 1/2015
Oliver Rettig, Britta Krautwurst, Michael W. Maier, Sebastian I. Wolf
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests

Authors’ contributions

OR developed the model, performed the analysis and drafted the manuscript, BK performed the measurements and participated in the design of the study, MM discussed the medical and clinical implications, SW supervised the study and helped to draft and review the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.



Surgical interventions at the shoulder may alter function of the shoulder complex. Clinically, the outcome can be assessed by universal goniometry. Marker-based motion capture may not resemble these results due to differing angle definitions.


The clinical inspection of bilateral arm abduction for assessing shoulder dysfunction is performed with a marker based 3D optical measurement method. An anatomical zero position of shoulder pose is proposed to determine absolute angles according to the Neutral-0-Method as used in orthopedic context. Static shoulder positions are documented simultaneously by 3D marker tracking and universal goniometry in 8 young and healthy volunteers. Repetitive bilateral arm abduction movements of at least 150° range of motion are monitored. Similarly a subject with gleno-humeral osteoarthritis is monitored for demonstrating the feasibility of the method and to illustrate possible shoulder dysfunction effects.


With mean differences of less than 2°, the proposed anatomical zero position results in good agreement between shoulder elevation/depression angles determined by 3D marker tracking and by universal goniometry in static positions. Lesser agreement is found for shoulder pro-/retraction with systematic deviations of up to 6°. In the bilateral arm abduction movements the volunteers perform a common and specific pattern in clavicula-thoracic and gleno-humeral motion with maximum shoulder angles of 32° elevation, 5° depression and 45° protraction, respectively, whereas retraction is hardly reached. Further, they all show relevant out of (frontal) plane motion with anteversion angles of 30° in overhead position (maximum abduction). With increasing arm anteversion the shoulder is increasingly retroverted, with a maximum of 20° retroversion. The subject with gleno-humeral osteoarthritis shows overall less shoulder abduction range of motion but with increased out-of-plane movement during abduction.


The proposed anatomical zero definition for shoulder pose fills the missing link for determining absolute joint angles for shoulder elevation/depression and pro-/retraction. For elevation-/depression the accuracy suits clinical expectations very well with mean differences less than 2° and limits of agreement of 8.6° whereas for pro-/retraction the accuracy in individual cases may be inferior with limits of agreement of up to 24.6°. This has critically to be kept in mind when applying this concept to shoulder intervention studies.
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