During the empty can test, the direction of the thumb (downward) has been widely used as an instruction for producing glenohumeral internal rotation. However, the combination of forearm pronation and thumb motion as a compensatory movement could contribute to the lack of glenohumeral internal rotation during the empty can test. This study aimed to compare the glenohumeral internal rotation angle between the conventional empty can (with thumb direction) and modified empty can tests (with elbow direction), as well as the acromiohumeral distance between the full can, conventional empty can, and modified empty can tests.
In this laboratory study, we measured the glenohumeral internal rotation angle using a motion sensor and the acromiohumeral distance using ultrasonography during the following tests: full can test (thumb pointing up), conventional empty can test (thumb pointing down), and modified empty can test (elbow pointing laterally) in 20 healthy subjects.
Compared with the conventional empty can test, the glenohumeral internal rotation angle was significantly greater during the modified empty can test (p < 0.05). Furthermore, the acromiohumeral distance measured in the modified empty can test was significantly less than that in the full can test (p < 0.001) and conventional empty can test (p < 0.001). However, there was no difference in the acromiohumeral distance between the full can test and the conventional empty can test (p > 0.017).
During the empty can test, the instructions should be given to patients based on the elbow direction (elbow pointing laterally). The modified empty can test can produce full glenohumeral internal rotation, compared with instructions based on the thumb direction (thumb pointing down). Consequently, the modified empty can test can produce a more decreased subacromial space.
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Published online: December 27, 2021
Accepted: December 9, 2021
Received in revised form: December 5, 2021
Received: September 6, 2021
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