Journal of biomechanics

The friction coefficient of shoulder joints remains remarkably low over 24 h of loading.

PMID 26472306


The frictional response of whole human joints over durations spanning activities of daily living has not been reported previously. This study measured the friction of human glenohumeral joints during 24 h of reciprocal loading in a pendulum testing device, at moderate (0.2 mm/s, 4320 cycles) and low (0.02 mm/s, 432 cycles) sliding speeds, under a 200 N load. The effect of joint congruence was also investigated by testing human humeral heads against significantly larger mature bovine glenoids. Eight human joints and six bovine joints were tested in four combinations: human joints tested at moderate (hHCMS, n=6) and low speed (hHCLS, n=3), human humeral heads tested against bovine glenoids at moderate speed (LCMS, n=3), and bovine joints tested at moderate speed (bHCMS, n=3). In the first half hour the mean±standard deviation of the friction coefficient was hHCMS: 0.0016±0.0011, hHCLS: 0.0012±0.0002, LCMS: 0.0008±0.0002 and bHCMS: 0.0024±0.0008; in the last four hours it was hHCMS: 0.0057±0.0025, hHCLS: 0.0047±0.0017, LCMS: 0.0012±0.0003 and bHCMS: 0.0056±0.0016. The initial value was lower than the final value (p<0.0001). The value in LCMS was significantly lower than in hHCMS and bHCMS (p<0.01). No visual damage was observed in any of the specimens. These are the first results to demonstrate that the friction coefficient of natural human shoulders remains remarkably low (averaging as little as 0.0015 and no greater than 0.006) for up to 24 h of continuous loading. The sustained low friction coefficients observed in incongruent joints (~0.001) likely represent rolling rather than sliding friction.