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Napoleon’s Test

Napoleon’s test is one part of shoulder examination. It is meant to detect a tear of one of the rotator cuff tendons- the subscapularis. It was first described in the late 1990s and was called the belly-press test. It was later modified and named after Napoleon Ponaparte.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821) was a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the  French Revolution. He was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1814. Napoleon was most well known for the hand-in-waistcoat gesture because of the several portraits made by his artist. Theories state the gesture was done by Napoleon because of a stomach pain he had, but the pose was common in portraits during the 18th and 19th centuries. The pose originates from classical times when speaking with an arm outside one’s toga was considered rude. The Napoleon test starts by placing the hand on the belly, just like Napoleon’s portrait. The patient presses the abdomen with the hand. If the subscapularis is weak or torn, the patient won’t be able to bring the elbow in front of the body or hold it there.


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