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Screening the athlete’s shoulder for impingement symptoms: a clinical reasoning algorithm for early detection of shoulder pathology

Abstract

Chronic shoulder pain and dysfunction are common complaints among overhead athletes seeking care from physical medicine and rehabilitation. Impingement is a frequently described pathological condition in the overhead athlete. Impingement symptoms may be the result of rotator cuff pathology, shoulder instability, scapular dyskinesis or muscle dysfunction, biceps pathology, SLAP lesions and chronic stiffness of the posterior capsule. At present, numerous different shoulder tests have been described in literature and discussed with respect to their individual diagnostic accuracy. However, in view of the number of shoulder tests, it is often a challenge for the clinician to select the appropriate tests for diagnosing the underlying pathology. The purpose of this paper is to present and discuss a clinical algorithm which may be used in the early detection of the underlying causes of impingement symptoms. In this algorithm, a specific chronology and selection of diagnostic tests may offer the clinician a guideline in his physical examination of the athlete with shoulder pain.

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