Effects of pace and stress on upper extremity kinematic responses in sign language interpreters.

Research paper by J J Qin, M M Marshall, J J Mozrall, M M Marschark

Indexed on: 04 Mar '08Published on: 04 Mar '08Published in: Ergonomics


Sign language interpreters suffer from high levels of upper extremity disorders and burnout due to the physical and cognitive demands of interpreting. The objective of this research was to quantify the wrist kinematics of interpreting and to assess how speaker pace and psychosocial stress influence wrist kinematics. Professional interpreters interpreted a pre-recorded lecture, while the speaking pace of the lecture varied. One group of subjects was exposed to environmental conditions intended to induce stress. Several wrist kinematic variables of interpreting exceeded previously established high risk benchmarks for development of upper extremity disorders in industrial tasks. Wrist velocity and acceleration increased significantly with pace, with increases ranging from 10.7-18.6%. Increased psychosocial stress resulted in significant increase of left hand (non-dominant) wrist velocity and acceleration, with increases ranging from 14.8-19.5%. These results provide an objective assessment of the biomechanical demands of interpreting and support earlier research into different types of work, which found deleterious effects of psychosocial stress on the biomechanical responses of the lower back.