Name of test

Elbow extension

What it tests

Passive motion of course assesses the joint surface itself. If passive motion is normal, then active motion assesses the function of triceps.

How to do it

Gently take the elbow from full flexion to full extension. If that is normal, repeat against resistance

The normal response

Passive extension is usually to at least 15 degrees. There should be side to side symmetry, though throwing athletes may have a slight flexion contracture. Active extension should be full, strong and painfree

What it means if not normal

An inability to passively extend suggests arthrosis. Weakness in extension suggests disruption of the triceps, or less commonly, an injury to the radial nerve. Weakenss with pain suggests a partial rupture/avulsion


Make sure to position the patient in such a way that gravity does not mask weakness–that is, a triceps rupture can be missed if gravity is used to extend the joint. Assess against resistance


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