Dynamic three-dimensional ultrasound to evaluate scapular movement among manual wheelchair users and healthy controls

Lynn A. Worobey, Yen Sheng Lin, Alicia M. Koontz, Michael L. Boninger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: A large percentage of individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) report shoulder pain that can limit independence and quality of life. The pain is likely related to the demands placed on the shoulder by transfers and propulsion. Shoulder pathology has been linked to altered scapular mechanics; however, current methods to evaluate scapular movement are invasive, require ionizing radiation, are subject to skin-based motion artifacts, or require static postures. Objective: To investigate the feasibility of applying 3-dimensional ultrasound methods, previously used to look at scapular position in static postures, to evaluate dynamic scapular movement. Method: This study evaluated the feasibility of the novel application of a method combining 2-dimensional ultrasound and a motion capture system to determine 3-dimensional scapular position during dynamic arm elevation in the scapular plane with and without loading. Results: Incremental increases in scapular rotations were noted for extracted angles of 30°, 45°, 60°, and 75° of humeral elevation. Group differences were evaluated between a group of 16 manual wheelchair users (MWUs) and a group of age-and gender-matched able-bodied controls. MWUs had greater scapular external rotation and baseline pathology on clinical exam. MWUs also had greater anterior tilting, with this difference further accentuated during loading. The relationship between demographics and scapular positioning was also investigated, revealing that increased age, pathology on clinical exam, years since injury, and body mass index were correlated with scapular rotations associated with impingement (internal rotation, downward rotation, and anterior tilting). Conclusion: Individuals with SCI, as well as other populations who are susceptible to shoulder pathology, may benefit from the application of this imaging modality to quantitatively evaluate scapular positioning and effectively target therapeutic interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-312
Number of pages10
JournalTopics in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Kinematics
  • Scapula
  • Ultrasound
  • Wheelchair user

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Clinical Neurology


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