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After completing this chapter, you will be able to:

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  • Explain how anatomical structure affects movement capabilities of upper-extremity articulations.
  • Identify factors influencing the relative mobility and stability of upper-extremity articulations.
  • Identify muscles that are active during specific upper-extremity movements.
  • Describe the biomechanical contributions to common injuries of the upper extremity.

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The capabilities of the upper extremity are varied and impressive. With the same basic anatomical structure of the arm, forearm, hand, and fingers, major league baseball pitchers hurl fastballs at 40 m/s, swimmers cross the English Channel, gymnasts perform the iron cross, travelers carry briefcases, seamstresses thread needles, and students type on computer keyboards. This chapter reviews the anatomical structures enabling these different types of movement and examines the ways in which the muscles cooperate to achieve the diversity of movement of which the upper extremity is capable.

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The shoulder is the most complex joint in the human body, largely because it includes five separate articulations: the glenohumeral joint, the sternoclavicular joint, the acromioclavicular joint, the coracoclavicular joint, and the scapulothoracic joint. The glenohumeral joint is the articulation between the head of the humerus and the glenoid fossa of the scapula, which is the ball-and-socket joint typically considered to be the major shoulder joint. The sternoclavicular and acromioclavicular joints provide mobility for the clavicle and the scapula—the bones of the shoulder girdle.

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Graphic Jump Location

Pitching a ball requires the coordination of the muscles of the entire upper extremity.

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Graphic Jump Location

Front view of the shoulder. From Shier, Butler, and Lewis, Hole’s Human Anatomy and Physiology, © 1996. Reprinted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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Sternoclavicular Joint

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The proximal end of the clavicle articulates with the clavicular notch of the manubrium of the sternum and with the cartilage of the first rib to form the sternoclavicular joint. This joint provides the major axis of rotation for movements of the clavicle and scapula (Figure 7-1). The sternoclavicular (SC) joint is a modified ball and socket, with frontal and transverse plane motion freely permitted and some forward and backward sagittal plane rotation allowed. A fibrocartilaginous articular disc improves the fit of the articulating bone surfaces and serves as a shock absorber. Rotation occurs at the SC joint during motions such as shrugging the shoulders, elevating the arms above the head, and swimming. The close-packed position for the SC joint occurs with maximal shoulder elevation.

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Figure 7-1
Graphic Jump Location

The sternoclavicular joint.

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Acromioclavicular Joint

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The articulation of the acromion process of the scapula with the distal end of the clavicle is known as the acromioclavicular joint. It is classified as an irregular ...

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