Glenohumeral ligaments

Last revised by Henry Knipe on 19 Jan 2024

There are three glenohumeral ligaments (GHL), which are thickenings of the glenohumeral joint capsule and are important passive stabilizers of the joint. 

  • runs from the superior aspect of the glenoid and coracoid process to the superior part of the lesser tuberosity of the humerus at the medial edge of the intertubercular fossa

  • initially anterior then anteroinferior to the long head of the biceps tendon; stabilizes the biceps brachii tendon 3

  • runs from the anterosuperior glenoid, arising just inferior to the superior GHL, to the anterior proximal humerus below the superior GHL attachment at the base of the lesser tuberosity 6

  • sometimes referred to as the inferior glenohumeral ligament complex 4

  • runs from the inferior two-thirds of the glenoid labrum and/or neck to the inferior aspect of the anatomical humeral neck

  • composed of three parts

    • anterior band

    • posterior band

    • axillary pouch: laxity between anterior and posterior bands

  • most important of the three GHLs as it prevents dislocation at the extreme range of motion and is the main stabilizer of the abducted shoulder 1,4

  • also referred to as fasciculus obliquus 5

  • runs from the infraglenoid tubercle and triceps tendon to the lesser tubercle of the humerus where it shares an insertion with the subscapularis tendon

  • not well-known, but consistently demonstrated on both anatomic dissection and MR arthrography 5

  • superior GHL is almost always present (97% ref) but has a variable origin

    • arises with biceps brachii tendon 7

    • arises with middle GHL 7

    • may be thickened in the setting of an absent/hypoplastic middle GHL 7

    • may be absent in the setting of a Buford complex 8

  • middle GHL is variable in size and appearance 1 and absent in 30% 3 

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