The Troemner Hammer

Ernst L.O. Troemner (1868-1930) was a German neurologist who was director of the Neurological Hospital at St. Georg in Hamburg and professor of the University of Hamburg. In 1910, he developeda reflex hammer which became very popular in German and in the United States.

In describing his hammer, Troemner wrote:

A frequently-experimented urge stimulated me…to construct a totally usable hammer, partly based on an older French model. The hammer, which is all metal, weighs approximately 100 grams, is 22 centimeters long, lies comfortable in the hand, and has a head of 8 centimeters width, with knobs of rubber at both ends which can be easily exchanged. The large head is designed for use on the large tendons of the extensor surfaces (patellar, achilles, triceps reflexes) and especially for eliciting periosteal and joint reflexes which can be quite painful with the use of smaller hammers, especially in hyperalgetic patients. The smaller head is used for percussion of flexor tendons (biceps humeri, biceps femoris, and semi-tendinosus) …. The smooth handle of the hammer can be easily cleaned and in a pinch may be utilized as a tongue blade. [author’s note: Yuck!] Its sharpened edge, in addition, elicits cutaneous and vascular reflexes…

An interesting related note about the Troemner hammer is that in 1927 Henry W. Woltman (1889-1964), then associate professor at the Mayo Clinic, spent 6 months in Europe visiting the leading neurological centers. In Hamburg, he was greatly impressed by the balance and design of the Troemner hammer. Woltman bought several of the hammers for himself and his colleagues in Rochester, Minnesota. Subsequently, the Troemner hammer became a tradition among Mayo Clinic neurologists. For many years at Mayo, gold-plated Troemner hammers were given to emeritus professors and to distinguished visiting neurologists.

Primary reference: Lanska, DJ; Neurology Nov 1989 p1542-9; The History of Reflex Hammers

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