Fibrocartilage at the entheses of the suprascapular (superior transverse scapular) ligament of man--a ligament spanning two regions of a single bone

J Anat. 2001 Nov;199(Pt 5):539-45. doi: 10.1046/j.1469-7580.2001.19950539.x.


The suprascapular ligament converts the suprascapular notch into a foramen separating the vessels and nerve of the same name. It connects 2 regions of the same bone and does not cross any joint, and no mechanical function has yet been attributed to it. Nevertheless, variations in its thickness and length, and its tendency to ossify, suggest that the ligament responds to changes in mechanical load. This should be reflected in the composition of the extracellular matrix. The primary purpose of the present study is to demonstrate that the suprascapular ligament has fibrocartilaginous entheses (i.e. insertion sites), even though there is no obvious change in insertional angle that directly results from joint movement. Such a change is more typical of tendons or ligaments that cross highly mobile joints. The complete ligament (including both entheses) was removed from 7 cadavers shortly after death and fixed in 90% methanol. Cryosections were immunolabelled with a panel of monoclonal antibodies against collagens (types I, II, III, VI), glycosaminoglycans (chondroitin 4 sulphate, chondroitin 6 sulphate, dermatan sulphate and keratan sulphates), proteoglycans (aggrecan and versican) and link protein. Both entheses were strongly fibrocartilaginous, and a moderately fibrocartilaginous matrix was also detected throughout the remainder of the ligament. The extracellular matrix of both entheses labelled strongly for type II collagen, aggrecan and link protein. The fibrocartilaginous character of the entheses suggests that the insertion sites of the ligament are subject to both compressive and tensile loading and are regions of stress concentration. This in turn probably reflects the complex shape of the scapula and the presence of a conspicuous indentation (the suprascapular notch) near the ligament. The loading patterns may reflect either the attachment of muscles and/or the forces transmitted to the suprascapular ligament from the neighbouring coracoclavicular ligament.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aggrecans
  • Cartilage / anatomy & histology*
  • Cartilage / chemistry
  • Chondroitin Sulfates / analysis
  • Collagen Type I / analysis
  • Collagen Type II / analysis
  • Collagen Type III / analysis
  • Dermatan Sulfate / analysis
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Keratan Sulfate / analysis
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Ligaments / anatomy & histology*
  • Ligaments / chemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proteins / analysis
  • Proteoglycans / analysis
  • Scapula*


  • Aggrecans
  • Collagen Type I
  • Collagen Type II
  • Collagen Type III
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Proteins
  • Proteoglycans
  • link protein
  • Dermatan Sulfate
  • Chondroitin Sulfates
  • Keratan Sulfate