Ball & Socket Joint: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 What are Joints?
  • 0:47 What are Ball & Socket Joints?
  • 1:12 Examples of Ball and…
  • 2:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dominic Corsini
What exactly are skeletal joints? How does your upper arm connect to your shoulder? This lesson answers these questions through an investigation into ball and socket joints.

What Are Joints?

To begin this lesson, take a moment to bend your arm, then straighten it. Now, do the same with your leg. Also, twist your head side to side and rotate your shoulder from front to back. All loosened up? Your body is an amazing piece of machinery. All the movements you just performed were possible because of skeletal joints. Joints are places where the bones of your skeleton connect to one another. Without these connections, movement would be difficult, if not impossible. Different types of motion are possible because there are different types of connections, or joints, in the skeleton. Our focus is on one specific connection type, which we'll now discuss.

What Are Ball and Socket Joints?

The last motion you performed - rotating your shoulder - was made possible by a special type of joint called a ball and socket joint. Ball and socket joints involve the round head of one bone (the ball) fitting snuggly into the rounded pocket of another bone (the socket). These joints allow motion in numerous directions as the ball rotates within the socket.

Examples of Ball and Socket Joints

Ball and socket joints can be found in all animals. However, for familiarity purposes, let's focus on those found in humans. The upper arm (humerus) and shoulder (scapula) are connected using a ball and socket joint. This union is held in place by ligaments, tendons, and muscles, and cushioned by cartilage. Did you ever hear anyone talk about injuring their rotator cuff? If so, they are referencing the tendons that hold the shoulder's ball and socket joint together.

Another example of a ball and socket joint in humans is found in your hip. Here, the head of your upper leg, or femur bone, fits into a pocket created by your pelvis. It's the same type of junction. Have you ever heard of someone having hip replacement surgery? Interestingly, that surgery often involves fixing the portion of the femur that is the ball, or head, of our ball and socket joint.

Ball and Socket Joints of the Hip
Ball and Socket Joints of the Hip

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