Scapula: Definition, Anatomy & Fractures

Instructor: Meghan Greenwood

Meghan has taught undergraduate and graduate level science courses and has a PhD in Immunology.

This lesson provides a basic introduction to the scapula and its importance for range of motion. It also discusses scapular fractures and the common medical techniques for proper healing.

Purpose of the Scapula

It's the top of the 9th inning, and the bases are loaded. The game now fully depends on your final pitch. You step back, wind up, and sail the ball directly into the catcher's mitt. STRIKE 3! You've won the game for your entire team.

Baseball pitching

A pitcher steps back, winds up, and the force through the lower body is coordinated by the scapula to throw the ball. This is depicted in the stills of the pitcher in the above image.

The beautiful overhand pitch that facilitated your win was not only made possible by hard work and practice, but also by a pivotal bone in your anatomy - the scapula, which is more commonly referred to as the shoulder blade and is critical for stabilizing and permitting sport movements, such as throwing, swimming, rowing. It is similarly important for everyday activities like lifting a box overhead or reaching for a blanket on the top shelf in the closet. Overall, the scapula coordinates the large forces from your back and lower body into efficient motion through the arm and hand.


Scapula Anatomy

The scapula is located on your back and has a triangular shape that looks like a blade, hence the common reference, shoulder blade. Although it is primarily a flat bone, the scapula also contains two projections, the a.c. processes, the acromion and coracoid processes . These features make the scapula look quite pointy and almost prehistoric - but don't worry, the shoulder was designed to be very functional. The other portions of the scapula are numbered and listed in the image below, if you are interested.

1. Subscapular fossa

2. Glenoid cavity

3. Coracoid process

4. Acromion

5. Superior border

6. Scapular notch

7. Superior angle

8. Medial border

9. Inferior angle

10. Lateral border

11. Infraglenoid tubercle

Scapula anatomy

The Scapula Is Connected to the...Collarbone!

The scapula attaches to two other bones, the clavicle (the collarbone) and the humerus (the upper arm) as well as a number of joints and tendons. Additionally, it serves as a platform for more than 10 chest, arm, and back muscles to attach, including the biceps and the triceps. In other words, without the scapula, it would be really hard to pump iron!

Scapula Fractures

Together, the shoulder complex allows for a range of motion that is much greater than any other joint in the body. Because of its crucial role in movement, if you injure your scapula, it can be detrimental to your mobility. Thankfully, scapular fractures are quite rare and most often only occur following blunt-force trauma (so wear your seatbelt!). In addition to not being able to lift your arm, other common symptoms of a fracture include swelling of the shoulder area, bruising and extreme pain.

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