Torso and bowing arm three-dimensional joint kinematics of elite cellists: Clinical and pedagogical implications for practice

Document Type

Journal Article


Science and Medicine Inc.

Place of Publication

United States


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts


Originally published as: Hopper, L., Chan, C., Wijsman, S., Ackland, T., Visentin, P., & Alderson, J. (2017). Torso and Bowing Arm Three-Dimensional Joint Kinematics of Elite Cellists: Clinical and Pedagogical Implications for Practice. Medical Problems of Performing Artists, 32(2), 85-93. Available here.


BACKGROUND: Elite cello playing requires complex and refined motor control. Cellists are prone to right shoulder and thoracolumbar injuries. Research informing injury management of cellists and cello pedagogy is limited. The aims of this study were to quantify the torso, right shoulder, and elbow joint movement used by elite cellists while performing a fundamental playing task, a C major scale, under two volume conditions. METHODS: An eight degrees of freedom upper limb biomechanical model was applied to 3D motion capture data of the torso, upper arm, and forearm for 31 cellists with a mean experience of 19.4 yrs (SD 9.1). Two-factor ANOVA compared the joint positions between the four cello strings and two volume conditions. FINDINGS: Significant (p<0.05) effects were found for either the string and/or volume conditions across all torso, shoulder, and elbow joint degrees of freedom. The torso was consistently positioned in left rotation from 5.0° (SD 5.6) at the beginning of the scale, increasing to 16.3° (5.5) at its apogee. The greatest mean shoulder flexion, internal rotation, and abduction joint angles were observed when playing at the tip of the bow on the top string (A): 107.2° (11.6), 59.1° (7.1), and -76.9° (15.7), respectively, during loud playing. INTERPRETATION: Elite cellists use specific movement patterns to achieve string crossings and volume regulation during fundamental playing tasks. Implications of the static leftrotated torso posture and high degrees of combined shoulder flexion and internal rotation can be used to inform clinical and pedagogical practices.