Empty can Test (Jobe Test)

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 Empty can Test (Jobe Test)

What does the Empty Can Test indicate?

Empty can test or as it called Jobe Supraspinatus Test is a special test used to check for weakness or insufficiency of the supraspinatus muscle and rotator cuff impingement of the shoulder.

It was first described by Christopher M. Jobe, MD, an Orthopedic surgeon in Oroville, California.

See Also: Rotator Cuff of the Shoulder

How do you perform the empty can test?

Empty can test may be performed with the patient standing or seated.

The empty can test can be performed similarly with the humerus externally rotated, this called a full can test.

Full Can Test:

full can test
Full Can Test

What does a positive Empty Can Test mean?

Empty Can Test Accuracy

A Cohort Study 1 by Nitin B Jain found that empty can test had a high sensitivity and specificity for supraspinatus tears as following:

Another study 2 found the empty can test to have a high sensitivity of 86% and a low specificity of 50% in diagnosing supraspinatus tendon tears in a series of 55 patients.

The full can test had higher specificity (74% vs. 68%) and an equal sensitivity of 77% when compared with the empty can test in a series of 136 patients 3.

Starter Test

Starter Test or Zero-Degree Abduction Test is another test for rotator cuff tear especially the Supraspinatus tendon.

The patient stands with his or her arm s hanging relaxed. The examiner grasps the distal third of each forearm. The patient attempts to abduct the arms against the examiner’s resistance.

Abduction of the arm is “started” by the supraspinatus and deltoid muscles. Pain and, especially, weakness in abducting and holding the arm strongly suggest a rotator cuff tear.

Zero-degree abduction test
Zero-degree abduction test ( Starter Test )


Related Anatomy

There are four rotator cuff muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis muscles).

supraspinatus muscle originates from Superior scapula and inserts onto Humerus Greater tuberosity. It’s innervated by Suprascapular nerve.

Its action is abducting and externally rotating the arm, providing stability to the shoulder joint.

Rotator Cuff Anatomy
Rotator Cuff Anatomy


  1. Nitin B Jain, Jennifer Luz, Laurence D Higgins, Yan Dong, Jon J P Warner, Elizabeth Matzkin, Jeffrey N Katz. The Diagnostic Accuracy of Special Tests for Rotator Cuff Tear: The ROW Cohort Study.Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2017 Mar. PMID: 27386812.
  2. Leroux JL, Thomas E, Bonnel F, Blotman F. Diagnostic value of clinical tests for shoulder impingement syndrome. Rev Rhum Engl Ed. 1995 Jun;62(6):423-8. PMID: 7552206.
  3. Itoi E, Kido T, Sano A, Urayama M, Sato K. Which is more useful, the “full can test” or the “empty can test,” in detecting the torn supraspinatus tendon? Am J Sports Med. 1999 Jan-Feb;27(1):65-8. doi: 10.1177/03635465990270011901. PMID: 9934421.
  4. Litaker D, Pioro M, El Bilbeisi H, et al. Returning to the bedside: using the history and physical examination to identify rotator cuff tears. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2000;48:1633-1637
  5. Jobe FW, Moynes DR. Delineation of diagnostic criteria and a rehabilitation program for rotator cuff injuries. Am J Sports Med. 1982;10:336–9.
  6. Campbel’s Operative Orthopaedics 13th Book
  7. Clinical Tests for the Musculoskeletal System 3rd Edition.
  8. Dutton’s Orthopaedic Examination, Evaluation, And Intervention 3rd Edition.

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