Hand sensibility, strength, and laxity of high-level musicians compared to nonmusicians

Susan E.G. Sims, Laura Engel, Warren C. Hammert, John C. Elfar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Purpose To determine whether musicians have more sensitive, stronger, and flexible hands than nonmusicians. Methods A total of 100 musicians and 100 control subjects were assessed for 2-point discrimination, Semmes-Weinstein monofilament light touch, grip and pinch strength, and laxity. Musicians were included if enrolled as instrumental performance majors at a 4-year accredited conservatory of music. Nonmusician controls were university students who never or rarely engaged in playing an instrument. All subjects were between the ages of 18 and 28. The exclusion criterion was history of any hand condition, trauma, surgery, or diabetes. Statistical analyses were carried out using the t test, analysis of variance, and correlation coefficients as appropriate. Results High-level musicians in our cohort showed the same handedness (dominance) as the general population. The musicians were weaker than the nonmusicians. Male musicians were significantly weaker in pinch and grip bilaterally than nonmusicians, whereas female musicians were significantly weaker only in grip on the right/dominant side. Two-point discrimination was significantly less in musicians for the left/nondominant index, ring, and small fingers, and the right/dominant small and dominant index finger. Semmes-Weinstein testing was significantly better for the right/dominant digits, including the thumb, but not the left digits with the exception of the ring and nondominant middle and ring. There was no difference in laxity between the 2 groups. Conclusions High-level musicians have, in general, more sensitive but weaker hands than nonmusicians, but the differences seem small and may not be clinically important. Type of study/Level of evidence Diagnostic III.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1996-2002.e5
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015


  • 2-point discrimination
  • Laxity
  • light touch threshold
  • musicians
  • spatial discrimination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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