Worldwide prevalence of stroke in 2010 was 33 million, with 16.9 million people having a first stroke, of which 795,000 were American and 1.1 million European (1). It has been estimated that approximately one third of people fail to regain upper limb capacity, despite receiving therapy (2). This has important implications for both individuals and the wider society as reduced upper limb function is associated with dependence and poor quality of life for both patients and carers (3–5) and impacts on national economies (6).
While stroke has the highest prevalence, other neurological conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Spinal Cord Injury (SCI), and Traumatic Brian Injury, have a significant incidence and there are often similarities in presentation, and treatment and therefore assessment. The worldwide incidence of SCI is 40–80 cases per million population and the estimated European mean annual rate of MS incidence is 4.3 cases per 100,000 (7). Recently, Kister et al. (8) reported that 60% of people with MS have impaired hand function. The impact of upper limb dysfunction on ADL is higher than in stroke, as both sides are often affected (9). Although dysfunction after SCI depends on level of injury, upper limb function is consistently cited as a health priority. The incidence rate of TBI in Europe is about 235 per 100,000 population (10). Outcome data among European countries are very heterogeneous. From the US however, it is known that about 1.1% of the population suffer a TBI resulting in long term disability (11).