Comparison of three local frame definitions for the kinematic analysis of the fingers and the wrist

  • Goislard de Monsabert Benjamin
  • Visser J.M.A.
  • Vigouroux L.
  • van Der Helm F.C.T.
  • Veeger H.E.J.

  • Hand
  • Kinematics
  • Bony landmarks
  • Instantaneous helical axis
  • Cardan angles


Because the hand is a complex poly-articular limb, numerous methods have been proposed to investigate its kinematics therefore complicating the comparison between studies and the methodological choices. With the objective of overcoming such issues, the present study compared the effect of three local frame definitions on local axis orientations and joint angles of the fingers and the wrist. Three local frames were implemented for each segment. The “Reference” frames were aligned with global axes during a static neutral posture. The “Landmark” frames were computed using palpated bony landmarks. The “Functional” frames included a flexion–extension axis estimated during functional movements. These definitions were compared with regard to the deviations between obtained local segment axes and the evolution of joint (Cardan) angles during two test motions. Each definition resulted in specific local frame orientations with deviations of 15° in average for a given local axis. Interestingly, these deviations produced only slight differences (below 7°) regarding flexion–extension Cardan angles indicating that there is no preferred method when only interested in finger flexion–extension movements. In this case, the Reference method was the easiest to implement, but did not provide physiological results for the thumb. Using the Functional frames reduced the kinematic cross-talk on the secondary and tertiary Cardan angles by up to 20° indicating that the Functional definition is useful when investigating complex three-dimensional movements. Globally, the Landmark definition provides valuable results and, contrary to the other definitions, is applicable for finger deformities or compromised joint rotations.