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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Define bone, cartilage, and the skeletal system
  • List and describe the functions of the skeletal system

Bone , or osseous tissue    , is a hard, dense connective tissue that forms most of the adult skeleton, the support structure of the body. In the areas of the skeleton where bones move (for example, the ribcage and joints), cartilage    , a semi-rigid form of connective tissue, provides flexibility and smooth surfaces for movement. The skeletal system    is the body system composed of bones and cartilage and performs the following critical functions for the human body:

  • supports the body
  • facilitates movement
  • protects internal organs
  • produces blood cells
  • stores and releases minerals and fat

Support, movement, and protection

The most apparent functions of the skeletal system are the gross functions—those visible by observation. Simply by looking at a person, you can see how the bones support, facilitate movement, and protect the human body.

Just as the steel beams of a building provide a scaffold to support its weight, the bones and cartilage of your skeletal system compose the scaffold that supports the rest of your body. Without the skeletal system, you would be a limp mass of organs, muscle, and skin.

Bones also facilitate movement by serving as points of attachment for your muscles. While some bones only serve as a support for the muscles, others also transmit the forces produced when your muscles contract. From a mechanical point of view, bones act as levers and joints serve as fulcrums ( [link] ). Unless a muscle spans a joint and contracts, a bone is not going to move. For information on the interaction of the skeletal and muscular systems, that is, the musculoskeletal system, seek additional content.

Bones support movement

This photo shows a man exercising on a leg press machine at a gym.
Bones act as levers when muscles span a joint and contract. (credit: Benjamin J. DeLong)

Bones also protect internal organs from injury by covering or surrounding them. For example, your ribs protect your lungs and heart, the bones of your vertebral column (spine) protect your spinal cord, and the bones of your cranium (skull) protect your brain ( [link] ).

Bones protect brain

This illustration shows how the cranium protects and surrounds the brain. Only the outline of the cranium is visible, which is made transparent to show how the brain sits in the skull. There is a small amount of space between the brain and the cranium but the top and sides of the brain are completely protected by the cranial bones. The bottom of the brain extends below the cranial bones, with the base of the cerebellum seated just above the roof of the mouth. The medulla extends to the bottom of the skull where it meets with the spinal cord.
The cranium completely surrounds and protects the brain from non-traumatic injury.

Career connection

Orthopedist

An orthopedist    is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders and injuries related to the musculoskeletal system. Some orthopedic problems can be treated with medications, exercises, braces, and other devices, but others may be best treated with surgery ( [link] ).

Arm brace

This photo shows a man wearing a black arm brace on his upper arm and forearm. The brace is composed of an L shaped metal piece attached to an adjustable joint and four adjustable straps. The joint occurs at the elbow. One of the metal bars projects proximally from the joint up the forearm towards the shoulder. This bar is secured with two black straps to a foam cuff that wraps around the entire upper arm. The other metal bar projects distally from the joint, down the forearm, to the wrist. This bar is secured by two smaller foam wraps, one wrapping around the middle of the forearm and the other wrapping around the wrist.
An orthopedist will sometimes prescribe the use of a brace that reinforces the underlying bone structure it is being used to support. (credit: Juhan Sonin)

While the origin of the word “orthopedics” (ortho- = “straight”; paed- = “child”), literally means “straightening of the child,” orthopedists can have patients who range from pediatric to geriatric. In recent years, orthopedists have even performed prenatal surgery to correct spina bifida, a congenital defect in which the neural canal in the spine of the fetus fails to close completely during embryologic development.

Orthopedists commonly treat bone and joint injuries but they also treat other bone conditions including curvature of the spine. Lateral curvatures (scoliosis) can be severe enough to slip under the shoulder blade (scapula) forcing it up as a hump. Spinal curvatures can also be excessive dorsoventrally (kyphosis) causing a hunch back and thoracic compression. These curvatures often appear in preteens as the result of poor posture, abnormal growth, or indeterminate causes. Mostly, they are readily treated by orthopedists. As people age, accumulated spinal column injuries and diseases like osteoporosis can also lead to curvatures of the spine, hence the stooping you sometimes see in the elderly.

Some orthopedists sub-specialize in sports medicine, which addresses both simple injuries, such as a sprained ankle, and complex injuries, such as a torn rotator cuff in the shoulder. Treatment can range from exercise to surgery.

Mineral storage, energy storage, and hematopoiesis

On a metabolic level, bone tissue performs several critical functions. For one, the bone matrix acts as a reservoir for a number of minerals important to the functioning of the body, especially calcium, and phosphorus. These minerals, incorporated into bone tissue, can be released back into the bloodstream to maintain levels needed to support physiological processes. Calcium ions, for example, are essential for muscle contractions and controlling the flow of other ions involved in the transmission of nerve impulses.

Bone also serves as a site for fat storage and blood cell production. The softer connective tissue that fills the interior of most bone is referred to as bone marrow ( [link] ). There are two types of bone marrow: yellow marrow and red marrow. Yellow marrow contains adipose tissue; the triglycerides stored in the adipocytes of the tissue can serve as a source of energy. Red marrow is where hematopoiesis    —the production of blood cells—takes place. Red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are all produced in the red marrow.

Head of femur showing red and yellow marrow

This photo shows the head of the femur detached from the rest of the bone. The compact bone at the surface of the head has been removed to show the spongy bone beneath. Rather than being solid, like the compact bone, the spongy bone is mesh like with many open spaces, giving it the appearance of a sponge. A circle of yellow marrow is located at the exact center of the spongy bone. The red marrow surrounds the yellow marrow, occupying most of the interior space of the head.
The head of the femur contains both yellow and red marrow. Yellow marrow stores fat. Red marrow is responsible for hematopoiesis. (credit: modification of work by “stevenfruitsmaak”/Wikimedia Commons)

Chapter review

The major functions of the bones are body support, facilitation of movement, protection of internal organs, storage of minerals and fat, and hematopoiesis. Together, the muscular system and skeletal system are known as the musculoskeletal system.

Questions & Answers

Card 5 / 12: For whom would an appreciation of the structural characteristics of the human heart come more easily: an alien who lands on Earth, abducts a human, and dissects his heart, or an anatomy and physiology student performing a dissection of the heart on her very first day of class? Why?
Gelowe Reply
what are regular shaped cells with granules in the cytoplasam
Kabita Reply
PMNL
Dinu
I need sylubuss of clinical officers book
Omary Reply
cholesterol normal value is
BISWANATH Reply
less than 200mg/dl
Ashis
100 to159mg/dL
Dinu
Early this wk. I had some "A & P" questions & answers unfortunately didn't save them, Is there any way I can have them back ,so as 2 save them?. Thnx.
Kechi
what are the functions of the female reproductive system
Lister Reply
it produces the female egg necessary for reproduction, called the Ova or Oocytes. The system is designed to transport the Ova to the site of fertilization.
Kechi
Female reproductive system was mainly functioned to produce ova(ovum) (female eggs) Into which will be fertilized by male gamete to produce zygote
Omary
absolutely right
nimco
wa qalad nimco rage iska hubi
Khaliil
waxwalba ka fikirbay ubaahantahay
Ahmed
ha wayo jawabtoda wa qabyo nimco wey ku raacdat
Khaliil
ha wayo jawabtoda wa qabyo nimco wey ku raacday
Khaliil
wxayaabaha qaarkood waaa in aan u feejignaano
Ahmed
asc if I try female reproductive system has two function the first is to produce egg cell and the second is to protact and nourish the offspring until birth
Muriidi
what is stercobilinogen
Hancerich Reply
fecal urobilinogen. Created by bacteria in the gut. a chemical that gives feces brown color.
Blayne
next question pls.
Kechi
The rate of diffusion increases if the
stella
What's the answer?
Kechi
it's a breaking down of haemoglobin and it's a chemical made by bacteria
Dev
Thnx Dev Raj.
Kechi
yup so any more
Dev
yes I sure do need more "Questions" & "Answers". I'm learning whole lot. Thnx.
Kechi
what is the greatest muscle of the body
Lungu Reply
gluteus maximus
ABDULLAH
pls!!! more "A&P" questions & answers. Thnx.
Kechi
Gluteus maximus
THE
Describe anatomy of cardiovascular system?
cardiovascular system is a group of organs coming together to perform the circulation of blood. The organs invoked are the heart and the blood vessels with blood being the tissue. The heart is a pump and it pumps oxygenated blood through the systemic circuit and deoxygenated blood through the pulmon
bernard
pulmonary circuit.
bernard
more A&P questions pls. Thnx.
Kechi
If an ANOVA yields a significant F value, you could rely on ________ to test significant differences between group means.
Dane Reply
what's ANOVA
Cassandra
analysis of variance
Blayne
plz what you mean with "ANOVA" first
Fatima
anova means analysis of variance, a statistical method in which the variation in a set of observations is divided into distinct components.
Blayne
M value ot test
ABDULLAH
What does it mean by M value ot test?
Orpha
formation of red blood cells
Biketi Reply
explain why... lower back pain in ovarian cancer
Srijoni Reply
we says that protoplasm is the living part of us How?
Muzamil Reply
is the leaving part of our cellular structure.
Eric
it is the leaving part of our blood cellular structure also
ABDULLAH
what is receptor?
Preity Reply
an organ or cell able to respond to light, heat, or other external stimulus and transmit a signal to a sensory nerve.
Jessi
Has anyone taken the first exam?
Sandra
yes
yahye
yes
Allan
hey what is the process after your food is swallowed? how long does it take to get to the stomache until it is released as waste?
Fednise Reply
that is such a broad question. as you begin to swallow its various doses down the alimentary canal that brings the food into your stomach.then depending on whether it's a protein carbohydrate fat that dictates what function takes place in your stomach. these are all steps of digestion.
Joseph
typo sorry it's peristalsis , wave-like projections that push food down your alimentary canal etc. digestion starts in your mouth ends in your large intestines (colon anus)
Joseph
some of the many processes of digestion include hydrolysis dehydration synthesis denaturation of proteins etc. you have to be more specific.
Joseph
there's many different contributing factors the how long it takes food to convert into waste. remember fats, triglycerides proteins and carbohydrates all breakdown two different monomers and structures. you should be looking up metabolic processes.
Joseph
depending how much fiber you have in your diet dictates how much water is brought to your intestines that has to do with excretion whether fiber is insoluble or soluble. this is an anatomy and physiology app. to simply say the stomach will empty its contents in 2 to 3 hours would do you a disservice
Joseph
can the study of anatomy relate to medical technologies
Lean Reply
yes
Khh
absolutely
Jessi
yes...
Sherif
how can I understand micro biology and anatomy better.
Cassandra
yes
Kevin
someone to help me understand glycogeneogenesis
abel
what are the major branches of the aorta?
Kevin
look youtube video
Jessi

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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