Coracoid process: ravens, lighthouses and shooters
What is it? A curved piece of bone that’s part of our scapula (shoulder blade). This hook-shaped process protrudes from a thick base out of the top of the scapula. You can feel it just below the outer end (lateral end, in medical parlance) of the collar bone, aka the clavicle. What does it do? It’s an anchor for lots of muscles and ligaments in the shoulder. For example, the biceps muscle that runs down the front of our arm attaches to it; and the pectoral muscles of our chest — or ‘‘ pecs’’, as they’re called at the gym (and the beach) — are also tethered to this bony promontory. What’s it got to do with ravens? The thick hook of this piece of bone looks quite like a bird’s beak, and that’s how it got its name. Coracoid comes from two Greek words: korax , meaning raven, and eidos , which means form, so it literally means ‘‘ shaped like a raven’s beak’’. Coracoid, and korax, are great examples of onomatopoeia — when a word sounds like the thing it describes. Think how the ‘‘ cor’’ of coracoid and the ‘‘ kor’’ of korax sound like the peculiar cry of a raven or crow. . . .and lighthouses? Doctors call the coracoid process the ‘‘ surgeon’s lighthouse’’. There are lots of vitally important blood vessels and nerves in the shoulder, and surgeons operating on this part of the body have to avoid them, or risk causing serious damage. The coracoid process is a landmark that acts like a beacon, helping surgeons steer clear of the precious nerves and arteries. And how might shooters be aware of it? Clay pigeon shooters stick their gun butts into their shoulder and fire round after round into the sky, and this can sometimes fracture their coracoid process; it’s called ‘‘ trapshooter’s shoulder’’.