Validation of inertial measurement units for upper body kinematics

Melissa M.B. Morrow, Bethany Lowndes, Emma Fortune, Kenton R. Kaufman, M. Susan Hallbeck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study was to validate a commercially available inertial measurement unit (IMU) system against a standard lab-based motion capture system for the measurement of shoulder elevation, elbow flexion, trunk flexion/extension, and neck flexion/extension kinematics. The validation analyses were applied to 6 surgical faculty members performing a standard, simulated surgical training task that mimics minimally invasive surgery. Three-dimensional joint kinematics were simultaneously recorded by an optical motion capture system and an IMU system with 6 sensors placed on the head, chest, and bilateral upper and lower arms. The sensor-to-segment axes alignment was accomplished manually. The IMU neck and trunk IMU flexion/extension angles were accurate to within 2.9 ± 0.9 degrees and 1.6 ± 1.1°, respectively. The IMU shoulder elevation measure was accurate to within 6.8 ± 2.7° and the elbow flexion measure was accurate to within 8.2 ± 2.8°. In the Bland-Altman analyses, there were no significant systematic errors present; however, there was a significant inversely proportional error across all joints. As the gold standard measurement increased, the IMU underestimated the magnitude of the joint angle. This study reports acceptable accuracy of a commercially available IMU system; however, results should be interpreted as protocol specific.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-232
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Applied Biomechanics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomechanics
  • Ergonomics
  • IMU
  • Shoulder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation


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