SLAP Tear

A SLAP tear is an injury to the labrum of the shoulder, which is the ring of cartilage that surrounds the socket of the shoulder joint.

The term SLAP stands for Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior. In a SLAP injury, the top (superior) part of the labrum is injured. This top area is also where the biceps tendon attaches to the labrum. A SLAP tear occurs both in front (anterior) and back (posterior) of this attachment point. The biceps tendon can be involved in the injury, as well.

A SLAP Tear

Surgical options for SLAP tears vary from arthroscopic debridement to SLAP repair with repair of the associated injuries like Bankart leison or rotator cuff tear.

Anatomy

The head of your upper arm bone fits into a rounded socket in your shoulder blade. This socket is called the glenoid. Surrounding the outside edge of the glenoid is a rim of strong, fibrous tissue called the labrum. The labrum helps to deepen the socket and stabilize the shoulder joint. It also serves as an attachment point for many of the ligaments of the shoulder, as well as one of the tendons from the biceps muscle in the arm.

What causes a SLAP Tear?

The labrum frays or tears because of an injury. You may get a SLAP tear if you:

  • Fall on your outstretched arm.
  • Fall on your shoulder.
  • Brace yourself with your outstretched arm in a car accident.
  • Lift heavy objects repeatedly or too suddenly.
  • Do a lot of overhead activities, such as throwing a baseball.

Symptoms

Popping, clicking, or catching in the shoulder.

Pain when you move your arm over your head or throw a ball.

A feeling of weakness or instability in the shoulder.

Aching pain. People often have a hard time describing or pointing to exactly where the pain is.

Treatment

The first step in treatment is to see whether pain medicine and rehabilitation (rehab) can take care of the problem.

NSAIDs, which are anti-inflammatory medicines, may help the pain.

You can also try using heat or ice on your shoulder for about 15 to 20 minutes at a time. If your shoulder is very painful, try using a sling for a few days to support your arm.

Surgery

For many people, surgery is the only thing that helps. With arthroscopic , the doctor can get a close look at the injury and also do some repairs at the same time.

Arthroscopy

The surgical technique most commonly used for repairing a SLAP injury is arthroscopy. During arthroscopy, your surgeon inserts a small camera, called an arthroscope, into your shoulder joint. The camera displays pictures on a television screen, and your surgeon uses these images to guide miniature surgical instruments.

Because the arthroscope and surgical instruments are thin, your surgeon can use very small incisions (cuts), rather than the larger incision needed for standard, open surgery.