What to Know About Speed's Test and Yergason's Test

Medically Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on August 30, 2022
4 min read

Shoulder problems are one of the most common complaints that doctors need to diagnose. Speed’s test and Yergason’s test are both ways for your doctor to physically examine the area around your shoulder. 

Both tests require you to perform certain motions with your doctor. Your reaction to these motions can help your doctor figure out what’s causing your shoulder problems. Overall, they’re simple, fast, and useful tests. 

The Yergason and Speed tests both work with the area around the ball-and-socket joint in your shoulder. A number of different tissues and bones come together to make this joint function. The main body parts that these tests are designed to evaluate include your: 

  • Biceps tendon. The bicep muscle in your upper arm has three tendons. Two attach it to your shoulder blade, and one attaches it to your elbow.  
  • Humoral ligamentThis crosses over the top of your biceps tendon. It keeps it in place when your shoulder moves. 
  • Labrum. This is a ring of cartilage that surrounds the socket portion of your shoulder joint. It also interacts with your biceps tendon.  

These body parts can become injured in a number of ways. Examples of problems that these tests are designed to detect include: 

  • Biceps tendinitis — this is long-term damage to your tendon
  • SLAP tears — this stands for a superior-labrum-anterior-to-posterior tear
  • Tears in your humoral ligament 

Your posture and positioning matter when you’re performing Yergason’s test. Make sure to listen to your doctor and their instructions as they guide you through the motions of this test. You should pay particular attention to any sensations of pain and weakness felt during the movements. 

To perform Yergason’s test, you: 

  • Stand or sit with your arms loosely at your sides and the backs of your hands facing forward.
  • To get in position, keep your upper arm and elbow close to your body as you bend your lower arm up until you reach a 90-degree angle. Bend at the elbow. Hold your arm in this bent position. 
  • Your doctor will get into position by placing one hand on the groove in your shoulder where your biceps tendon and humoral ligament are located. They’ll place their other hand on your forearm to provide resistance when you move. 
  • Then, you perform two motions at the same time — rotate your forearm so your palm faces up to the ceiling while moving your forearm parallel to the floor until it points out to your side. In the final position, your palm should face up, your forearm should point to your left or right side, and your upper arm and elbow should still be close to your torso.  

One of the most common problems with this test is in the positioning of your hand, so pay particular attention to the direction that your palm is facing while you perform Yergason’s test. 

After completing this test on your injured arm, your doctor should also perform the test on your other arm for comparison. 

A positive on Yergason’s test means that you have a problem with your shoulder. The exact problem depends on what you and your doctor feel. If your doctor feels your tendon popping out of place or clicking and snapping, it’s probably because your humoral ligament is torn. If you feel pain even though they don’t feel any popping, you may have a problem like tendonitis or a SLAP tear. 

To perform Speed’s test, you should listen carefully to your doctor. There are a few different variations on this test. As with Yergason’s test, you should pay attention to feelings of pain and weakness throughout Speed’s test. 

To perform the first variation on Speed’s test, you: 

  • Stand with your arms hanging at your sides and your palms facing forward.
  • Your doctor will place one of their hands on your shoulder blade to feel for any sensations. Their other hand will rest on your forearm to provide some resistance as you move. 
  • Slowly raise your arm up toward the ceiling without bending your elbow. Stop when your arm is parallel to the floor and your shoulder is at a 90-degree angle with your torso. Your palm should now face the ceiling. 

In one variation on this test, you start with your arm already lifted and almost parallel to the ground. Your doctor will provide resistance as you continue to lift your arm.

Another variation is available if it’s too painful for you to perform the versions described above. This version is identical to the first variation, but your palm should face behind you instead of facing forward throughout the motion. When you finish, your palm should face the ground, not the ceiling. This posture puts less strain on your biceps tendon, though it could still be painful. 

Pain is the main reaction that your doctor is looking for during this examination. Pain is a positive result in terms of this test. 

A positive on Speed’s test means that one of a number of complications has occurred in your shoulder. This pain could indicate:

  • A tear in the head of your biceps tendon
  • Biceps tendinitis
  • SLAP tear

Keep in mind that these tests aren’t foolproof. They could miss relevant injuries. Plus, the sensations and results can vary from person to person. Once your doctor has performed one or both of these tests, they may try other physical tests for shoulder injuries. 

Examples of other shoulder tests include: 

  • Gerber’s lift-off test
  • Neer’s test
  • Scarf test

Follow-up could also include imaging tests like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These can help your doctor both confirm the presence of certain injuries and determine how severe they are. 

Depending on the injury, their treatment advice could include: