Shoulder SLAP Tear

Shoulder SLAP tear at a glance

  • A SLAP tear is a shoulder injury in which the firm ring of tissue that lines the shoulder socket, called the labrum, becomes torn or damaged.
  • SLAP stands for a superior labrum, anterior to posterior, referring to the way the top of the labrum tears from the front to the back of the shoulder.
  • Symptoms of a SLAP tear include aching pain, shoulder weakness, and popping or catching in the shoulder.
  • Falls, car accidents, frequent overhead activities, and heavy lifting are common causes of SLAP tears.
  • Treatment for a SLAP tear will include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine like Advil or Aleve, and physical therapy. Surgery may be necessary to repair the shoulder. Be sure to talk to your pharmacist before purchasing anti-inflammatories as these medications may be contraindicated as they may interact with other medications and medical conditions.

Causes of shoulder SLAP tear

SLAP tears are a common shoulder injury among athletes who do a lot of overhead movements like pitching in baseball or serving in tennis. Additionally, falling on the shoulder or the extended arm can cause SLAP tears, such as during football or gymnastics.

Car accidents can also cause SLAP tears. In some cases, people will try to brace themselves with their arms held out straight, and the force from the impact can cause the labrum to tear.

Repetitive overuse in activities like heavy lifting or working with the arms overhead can also damage the labrum over time. The labrum can also tear from sudden heavy lifting. 

Symptoms of shoulder SLAP tear

Common symptoms of a SLAP tear include:

  • Pain during shoulder movement
  • Aching pain in the shoulder area that may be hard to pinpoint
  • Weakness or instability in the shoulder joint
  • Catching, popping, or clicking when the shoulder is used

People with SLAP tears often have other shoulder injuries as well, particularly a torn rotator cuff.

Treatment for shoulder SLAP tear

Initially, a shoulder SLAP tear will be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen or Aleve. Your orthopedic physician may recommend therapeutic exercises to gently stretch and strengthen the muscles in the rotator cuff area and back of the shoulder.

However, surgery is often necessary to repair shoulder SLAP tears.

If you have symptoms or pain associated with a shoulder SLAP tear, contact us to request an appointment with our orthopedic specialists to learn about the treatment options available to you.