Watson Test

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 Watson Test

What is Watson Test (Scaphoid Shift Test)?

The Watson Test (or as it called scaphoid shift Test) examines the dynamic stability of the wrist, in particular the integrity of the scapholunate ligament.

It detects abnormal motion between the scaphoid and the lunate bone.

How do you perform the Watson Test?

What does a positive Watson Test mean?

Scaphoid Shift Test - Watson Test

Sensitivity & Specificity

A descriptive study by LaStayo1 for provocative tests used in evaluating wrist pain and compare retrospectively the results of these tests with the arthroscopic findings of three independent hand surgeons, he found that the Sensitivity & Specificity of Watson Test was as following:

Modified Watson Test

A slight modification to the Watson test has been described.

The patient positioning is similar to the Watson test except that the wrist is positioned in neutral to slight (0–10 degrees) radial deviation and neutral wrist flexion/extension. The clinician then quickly pushes the tubercle of the scaphoid in a posterior (dorsal) direction, noting a clunk, crepitus, or pain in comparison to the opposite wrist.

No diagnostic accuracy studies have been performed to determine the sensitivity and the specificity of this test.


Scaphoid shift is a provocative maneuver rather than a test, because it does not offer a simple positive or negative result, but rather a variety of findings, with emphasis being on asymmetry on bilateral examination.

Perilunate Dislocation


  1. P LaStayo, J Howell: Clinical provocative tests used in evaluating wrist pain: a descriptive study. J Hand Ther . Jan-Mar 1995;8(1):10-7. doi: 10.1016/s0894-1130(12)80150-5. PMID: 7742888
  2. Wolfe SW, Gupta A, Crisco JJ III: Kinematics of the scaphoid shift test. J Hand Surg Am 22A:801–806, 1997.
  3. Waggy C: Disorders of the wrist. In: Wadsworth C, ed. Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Home Study Course – The Elbow, Forearm, and Wrist. La Crosse, WI: Orthopaedic Section, APTA, Inc., 1997.
  4. Watson HK, Ashmead D, Makhlouf MV: Examination of the scaphoid. J Hand Surg Am 13A:657–660, 1988.
  5. Burton RI, Eaton RG: Common hand injuries in the athlete. Orthop Clin North Am 4:809–838, 1973.
  6. Taleisnik J: Classification of carpal instability. In: Taleisnik J, ed. The Wrist. New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1985:229–238.
  7. Easterling KJ, Wolfe SW: Scaphoid shift in the uninjured wrist. J Hand Surg Am 19A:604–606, 1994.
  8. Lane LB: The scaphoid shift test. J Hand Surg Am 18:366–368, 1993.
  9. Clinical Tests for the Musculoskeletal System 3rd Edition.
  10. Dutton’s Orthopaedic Examination, Evaluation, And Intervention 3rd Edition.

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