SLAP Tears (Shoulder) | | Loyola Medicine

SLAP Tears (Shoulder)

Overview and Facts about SLAP Tears

A SLAP (Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior) tear is an injury to the shoulder, specifically the labrum (cartilage ring that surrounds the shoulder’s socket). This injury can be painful and limit your shoulder’s range of motion. It is caused by either repetitive movements over time or acute trauma. 

Symptoms and Signs of SLAP Tears

SLAP tears have many of the same symptoms as other shoulder injuries, including a decreased range of motion and pain with shoulder movement or when lifting heavy objects. Other symptoms include:

  • Catching, popping or grinding feeling when moving the shoulder
  • Weakness in shoulder joint
  • Feeling that the shoulder is in danger of popping out of the joint

Causes and Risk Factors of SLAP Tears

Repetitive shoulder motions (over time or because of participation in a sport that includes overhead motions) and acute trauma are the most common causes of SLAP tears.

  • Acute trauma: an automobile accident, fall onto an outstretched arm or shoulder dislocation
  • Repetitive overhead motion sports: baseball, weightlifting or any sport with repeated throwing activity

Tests and Diagnosis for SLAP Tears

Your doctor will discuss your medical history and examine your shoulder for signs of swelling, pain, tenderness and impaired range of motion. Imaging may also be recommended for proper diagnosis, including X-rays or MRI scans. These tests and exams will help your doctor determine the location and extent of your injury so that he/she can determine the proper treatment plan. 

Treatment and Care for SLAP Tears

Treatment for SLAP tears depends on the extent of the injury. In many cases, non-surgical treatment, such as anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy can help reduce pain, restore range of motion and strengthen the affected shoulder.

If your injury is more extensive or does not heal with non-surgical methods, your doctor may recommend arthroscopic surgery. Repair of the damaged area during arthroscopy depends on the type of tear you have. Tears in this part of the shoulder joint may involve the labrum and/or biceps tendon.

After surgery, you may need to wear a sling for a period of time. Whether your treatment is surgical or non-surgical, you will need to begin a physical therapy program to help your shoulder fully heal. Your doctor will work with you to determine how long you need to participate in physical therapy and when you can return to your sport or previous level of activity.