Purpose: To determine the presence of a bony fracture or elbow joint effusion.
Test Position: Standing.
Performing the Test: The clinician instructs the patient to extend their elbow as far as possible. The clinician assesses whether or not full extension is achieved. A positive test is if the patient is unable to fully extend the elbow
Importance of Test:With the trochlea of the distal humerus inserting into the trochlear notch of the ulna, with full elbow extension a hard end feel occurs. This position is the close-packed position of the elbow. With the presence of an effusion or a body fracture, full extension will be blocked. According to multiple studies, the elbow extension test is a quick and reliable test to rule out a potential fracture. It may need to be followed up with an X-ray if full extension does not occur.
Note: these tests should only be used by properly trained health care practitioners
References: Neumann, Donald. "Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System: Foundations for Rehabilitation." 2nd edition. St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier, 2010. 173-175. Print.
Hawksworth CR, Freeland P. "Inability to fully extend the injured elbow: an indicator of significant injury." Arch Emerg Med 1991 December; 8(4):253-256.