SLAP Tear Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

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At Rebound, our physicians give your shoulder injury or condition compassionate and thoughtful attention. Our desire is to quickly return you to full mobility and activity by using the latest in diagnostic and treatment techniques for a variety of shoulder injuries, including SLAP tears. Learn about SLAP tear symptoms, causes and treatments below.

What is a SLAP tear?

A SLAP tear, or Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior tear, is a type of shoulder injury. When a SLAP tear occurs, the superior portion of the labrum of the shoulder is damaged. The superior portion of the labrum is attached to the biceps. The labrum is a cup-shaped rim of firm, fibrous tissue that cushions the socket of the shoulder joint, stabilizes the shoulder joint and reinforces the ball and socket joint.

What causes a SLAP tear?

SLAP tears are commonly caused by repetitive use of the shoulder or acute trauma. SLAP tears are often the result of the labrum wearing down over time. Athletes are also highly susceptible, particularly if their sport involves excessive overhead movement or force. For instance, baseball players, volleyball players, tennis players and swimmers are at a higher risk of this developing this type of shoulder injury. The following scenarios may also cause a SLAP tear:

  • Repetitive use of the shoulder in throwing sports
  • Rapid over the shoulder or overhead movement
  • Shoulder dislocation
  • Acute trauma from a motor vehicle accident
  • Falling onto an outstretched arm in front of or to the side of the body
  • Falling onto the shoulder
  • Forceful pulling of the arm
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Degeneration, or the wearing down of the labrum

What symptoms are associated with SLAP tears?

Most individuals experience a deep pain within the shoulder joint, accompanied by catching or popping sensation. After the injury, many report shoulder weakness and pain with movement or lifting.

SLAP Tear Symptoms:

  • Deep, aching pain
  • Popping, clicking, catching, locking or grinding in the shoulder
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Shoulder instability
  • Pain when lifting or carrying objects
  • Pain when moving the arm or shoulder
  • Decreased shoulder strength

Treatment

Initial treatment methods for SLAP tears are typically nonsurgical. Depending on your injury, a shoulder specialist may recommend anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain and swelling, followed by physical therapy exercises designed to strengthen the shoulder and restore range of motion and function.

When a nonsurgical treatment does not improve symptoms or you’ve sustained a more severe injury, arthroscopic surgery may be recommended. Arthroscopic shoulder surgery is a procedure that allows surgeons to insert a miniature camera into a patient’s shoulder through small incisions. Once the camera is inserted, the surgeon is able to see its feed displayed on a video monitor screen. By referring to the camera’s feed, the surgeon is able to determine which surgical measures to take. Surgical repair may involve removing the torn portion of the labrum or reattaching the torn portion of the labrum with stitches. Our surgeons determine the best method of repair based on an individual patient basis.

Rebound Shoulder Resources:

Common Shoulder Injuries in Throwing Athletes

Common Ways to Alleviate Shoulder Pain and Strengthen Shoulders

Tendinitis, Impingement and Bursitis: Common Sources of Shoulder Pain

Trusted SLAP Tear Resources:

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) – SLAP Tears

American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine – SLAP Tears