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Labral and SLAP Tears

A common injury among athletes is a SLAP (Superior [topmost] Labral tear from Anterior [front)] to Posterior [back] tear. A SLAP tear is an injury to the ring of cartilage (called the labrum) that stabilizes the shoulder joint. Labral injuries often occur along with shoulder separations. 

What causes a SLAP or Labral Tear?

Athletes involved in repetitive throwing or overhead sports are particularly at risk of developing a SLAP or labral tear in the shoulder, but this injury also occurs in non-athletes. Labral tearing or fraying commonly affects people over 40.

A SLAP tear may also be caused by an acute injury from:

  • A fall on an outstretched arm
  • Forceful pulling
  • Quick movement of the arm above the shoulder

How do you know you have a SLAP or Labral Tear?

Like many shoulder issues, SLAP/labral tear symptoms include:

  • A popping or catching sensation
  • Deep shoulder pain, especially in certain positions
  • Issues with overhead lifting
  • Reduced shoulder strength
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Decline in sports performance

How does OSI fix a SLAP or Labral Tear?

An OSI shoulder specialist will discuss your activities and examine you for signs and symptoms of a SLAP or labral tear. You can expect to experience some of the following as your OSI doctor looks to diagnose your SLAP or labral tear and proceed with the most effective treatment:

  • Physical exam: Your doctor will discuss your symptoms and when they first began, as well as any activities that aggravate the shoulder. A careful examination of the shoulder follows, focusing on the range of motion in different directions. Your doctor may also check for a pinched nerve, which can present similar symptoms.
  • X-rays: X-rays can reveal other issues with the shoulder, such as a fracture or arthritis.
  • MRI: An MRI can better show the severity of a tear.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Conservative treatments for a SLAP or labral injury include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy is available at OSI; expect PT for 3-6 months to strengthen shoulder muscles and prevent further injury

Surgical Treatment

Arthroscopic surgery is the technique typically used for repairing a SLAP tear. Your OSI shoulder specialist will discuss the need for surgery if your SLAP or labral tear is extensive.