A biomechanical model of the scapulothoracic joint to accurately capture scapular kinematics during shoulder movements

Ajay Seth, Ricardo Matias, António P. Veloso, Scott L. Delp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


The complexity of shoulder mechanics combined with the movement of skin relative to the scapula makes it difficult to measure shoulder kinematics with sufficient accuracy to distinguish between symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. Multibody skeletal models can improvemotion capture accuracy by reducing the space of possible joint movements, and models are used widely to improve measurement of lower limb kinematics. In this study, we developed a rigid-body model of a scapulothoracic joint to describe the kinematics of the scapula relative to the thorax. This model describes scapular kinematics with four degrees of freedom: 1) elevation and 2) abduction of the scapula on an ellipsoidal thoracic surface, 3) upward rotation of the scapula normal to the thoracic surface, and 4) internal rotation of the scapula to lift the medial border of the scapula off the surface of the thorax. The surface dimensions and joint axes can be customized to match an individual's anthropometry. We compared the model to "gold standard" bone-pin kinematics collected during three shoulder tasks and found modeled scapular kinematics to be accurate to within 2mm root-mean-squared error for individual bone-pin markers across all markers and movement tasks. As an additional test, we added random and systematic noise to the bone-pin marker data and found that the model reduced kinematic variability due to noise by 65% compared to Euler angles computed without themodel. Our scapulothoracic joint model can be used for inverse and forward dynamics analyses and to compute joint reaction loads. The computational performance of the scapulothoracic joint model is well suited for real-time applications; it is freely available for use with OpenSim3.2, and is customizable and usable with other OpenSim models.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0141028
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


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