OBJECTIVE. The purposes of this study were to determine whether a garden trowel labeled ergonomic provided better wrist positioning when planting than a standard-designed trowel and whether participants perceived the ergonomic labeled trowel as more comfortable and easier to use than the standard-designed trowel.

METHOD. Participants included 64 females, ages 20–50 years, with no self-reported disease or disability impairing their preferred upper extremity. Participants used both trowels to fill flowerpots with soil in a randomized, repeated measures, counterbalanced design. The wrist movements of ulnar and radial deviation, and palmar and dorsiflexion were measured with an electrogoniometer (Penny and Giles Biometrics Limited Goniometer XM65). Participants answered questions regarding their interest in gardening, ease of use and comfort of each trowel, and trowel preference.

RESULTS. A one-tailed paired t test showed that the trowels did not differ in the extremes of dorsiflexion elicited and the extremes of the other wrist movements were not in the predicted direction. Participants rated the trowels similarly for comfort and ease of use. Participants were evenly divided on personal preference for the two trowels.

CONCLUSION. Occupational therapists should be cautious when recommending a gardening trowel based on it being labeled ergonomic, as it may not produce better wrist positioning than a non-ergonomically labeled trowel. Fitting a person with the right trowel involves an assessment of tool-influenced wrist positioning as well as individual perceptions of comfort and ease of tool use.

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