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Labral/SLAP Tears

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.

Nonsurgical Treatment

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)

Surgical Treatment

Arthroscopic surgery is the technique typically used for repairing a SLAP tear.