The medial periosteal hinge plays a key role in fractures of the head of the humerus, offering mechanical support during and after reduction and maintaining perfusion of the head by the vessels in the posteromedial periosteum. We have investigated the biomechanical properties of the medial periosteum in fractures of the proximal humerus using a standard model in 20 fresh-frozen cadaver specimens comparable in age, gender and bone mineral density. After creating the fracture, we displaced the humeral head medial or lateral to the shaft with controlled force until complete disruption of the posteromedial periosteum was recorded. As the quality of periosteum might be affected by age and bone quality, the results were correlated with the age and the local bone mineral density of the specimens measured with quantitative CT. Periosteal rupture started at a mean displacement of 2.96 mm (SD 2.92) with a mean load of 100.9 N (SD 47.1). The mean maximum load of 111.4 N (SD 42.5) was reached at a mean displacement of 4.9 mm (SD 4.2). The periosteum was completely ruptured at a mean displacement of 34.4 mm (SD 11.1). There was no significant difference in the mean distance to complete rupture for medial (mean 35.8 mm (SD 13.8)) or lateral (mean 33.0 mm (SD 8.2)) displacement (p = 0.589). The mean bone mineral density was 0.111 g/cm(3) (SD 0.035). A statistically significant but low correlation between bone mineral density and the maximum load uptake (r = 0.475, p = 0.034) was observed. This study showed that the posteromedial hinge is a mechanical structure capable of providing support for percutaneous reduction and stabilisation of a fracture by ligamentotaxis. Periosteal rupture started at a mean of about 3 mm and was completed by a mean displacement of just under 35 mm. The microvascular situation of the rupturing periosteum cannot be investigated with the current model.