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Shoulder joint and ligaments

Other Terms: Shoulder, Ligaments of the shoulder joint, Glenohumeral joint


The glenohumeral or shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the body. The tremendous range of motion at this joint is the result of limited external ligaments that present little limitation to movement and a shallow, ovoid articular surface that receives a ball-like counter articular surface. These articular surfaces allow for movements in all planes of space. In fact, surrounding muscles and tendons possibly play a more significant role in joint support than do the joint structures themselves. This highly mobile joint is very susceptible injury. If the joint integrity is weakened, the head of the femur can become dislodged from the glenoid cavity in what is referred to as a shoulder dislocation.


Ball and socket or spheroid joint

Articular surfaces

Glenoid cavity of the scapula with the head of the humerus

Close-packed position

Abduction with lateral rotation


The capsular ligament is extremely lax, providing limited support to the joint. Blending with the capsule are the tendons of four muscles. Together the capsule and tendons form the rotator cuff, which is the major support structure of the joint. Extrinsic ligaments include the glenohumeral, coracohumeral, and transverse humeral ligaments. The glenohumeral ligaments and coracohumeral ligament are reinforcements to the anterior aspect of the joint capsule. The transverse humeral ligament functions as a retinaculum to stabilize the long tendon of the biceps muscle as it passes over the shoulder joint.


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