Isometric strength measurements of grip, pronation, supination, and elbow extension and flexion on dominant and nondominant sides were made on 40 normal subjects (age range, 40-70 years) to investigate the variability of isometric strength at different times of the day. Statistically significant differences were found in certain pronation, supination, and grip comparisons. No statistically significant difference was found in extension and flexion. Although significant, the absolute change in strength at different times of the day was small and showed no consistent trend. On the basis of these data, it appears that this variation can probably not be routinely detected in the normal clinical setting. However, the study further defines the reliability of isometric strength testing and should be considered in further attempts at more accurate measurement of elbow function. The small variations of strength, approximately 5%, that can be measured universally with sensitive testing equipment, are clinically relevant. However, when attempting to determine an impairment state in order not to place too much importance on small differences, care should be exercised in interpreting strength measurements. This investigation demonstrates how the application of sophisticated biomechanical techniques may be employed to provide useful objective information in the difficult clinical area of disability assessment. Disability judgments may be made more accurate as more is learned of the normal variables influencing objective measurement.
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