One of the most common causes of pain and disability in the upper limb is inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons. When no significant bony abnormality exists in the surrounding structures, the coracoacromial ligament has been implicated as a possible cause of impingement on the cuff tendons and various morphological variants of the ligament have so far been claimed to be either the cause or the result of impingement. In this study, 110 shoulders from 60 neonatal cadavers that were preserved in a preparation of formaldehyde were dissected. Anatomic variations of coracoacromial ligaments were investigated with metric and histologic analysis. Three main ligament types were identified: quadrangular, broad band and U-shaped. The multiple banded ligament was not found. Histologic analysis showed that in U-shaped ligaments a thin tissue existed in the central part of the ligament close to the coracoid. Comparing our data with the adult measurements of a previous study we suggest that the primordial ligament is broad shaped, but assumes a quadrangular shape due to the different growth rates of the coracoid and acromial ends. We also suggest that broad and U-shaped ligaments account for the primordial and quadrangular and Y-shaped ligaments account for the adult types of the single or double banded anatomic variants respectively. Our results show that various types of the coracoacromial ligament are present at the neonatal period and that the final shape of the ligament should be defined by developmental factors, rather than degenerative changes. (C) 2002 Lippincott Williams wilkins.