Objective: To examine upper-extremity motor recovery of subjects with tetraplegia with both complete and incomplete injuries, to predict which patients and at what time they would recover a motor level. Design: Prospective, multicenter clinical study of upper-extremity motor recovery in subjects with acute traumatic spinal cord injury. Setting: Three regional spinal cord injury centers. Subjects: One hundred sixty-seven individuals with acute traumatic tetraplegia (144 males [86%], and 23 females [14%]) between the ages of 15 and 75 years (mean age, 35.5 yrs). Methods: Subjects were examined and classified using sequential manual muscle tests performed on admission, 72 hours, 1, 2, and 3 weeks, and 1, 2, 3, 6, 12, 18, and 24 months postinjury. C5 biceps, C6 extensor carpi radialis, C7 triceps, and C8 flexor digitorum profundus were evaluated using a 0-5 scale. Analyses of the right motor levels used a series of logistic regression models, and for multiple measurements on each subject, models were estimated using generalized estimating equations. Results: The analysis for recovery of the biceps for the C4 group showed 70% of complete compared with 90% of incomplete injuries recovered (p < .001); of the extensor carpi radialis in the C5 group, 75% complete and 90% incomplete recovered (p < .002); and of the triceps in the C6 group, 85% of complete and 90% of incomplete injuries recovered (p < .16). Conclusion: Predicting future potential for upper- extremity motor recovery and for independence in self-care in groups of patients at a specific motor level is possible within the first week of injury. (C) 2000 by the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine and the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.