A common injury especially among throwers and active athletes, 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. The acronym SLAP = Superior (topmost) Labral tear from Anterior (front) to Posterior (back).
What causes it?
Athletes involved in repetitive throwing or overhead sports are at risk of developing a SLAP or labral tear in the shoulder, but this injury also occurs in non-athletes. Labral tearing or fraying regularly 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 it?
Like many shoulder issues, SLAP/labral tears 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 we fix it
The OSI sports medicine team is here to listen, discuss your concerns, and examine you for signs and symptoms of a SLAP or labral tear. Our goal is to restore shoulder function so you can enjoy the activities you love. While under our expert care, you may undergo the following:
- 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.
Conservative treatments for a SLAP or labral injury include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
- Physical therapy (3-6 months, to strengthen shoulder muscles and prevent further injury)
Arthroscopic surgery is the technique typically used for repairing a SLAP tear.