SLAP Tear/Labrum Tear Shoulder Injury
A SLAP tear is damage to the labrum – which is the ring of rubbery cartilage surrounding the arm socket of your shoulder blade.
The main purpose of the labrum is to keep your upper arm bone (humerus) within the shoulder blade socket (glenoid cavity). The labrum deepens the socket cavity and acts as a bumper, so the ball atop the humerus (the humeral head) can safely and securely glide around within the glenoid cavity, allowing a wide range of shoulder and arm movement.
How SLAP Tears Occur
The labrum in your shoulder may be damaged due to sudden trauma, most often from an acute injury that causes a shoulder dislocation. Slips and falls, auto accidents, and sports injuries are common reasons for a SLAP tear. It can happen as easily as using an outstretched arm to break a fall or from straining too much while reaching for something.
A SLAP tear is sometimes the result of chronic issues such as repetitive overhead movements, which often occur in sports requiring forceful, snap-like overhead motions, like volleyball, baseball, and more. Degenerative shoulder arthritis in the shoulder joint can also lead to a SLAP tear.
What Does a “SLAP Tear” Mean, Anyway?
stands for “superior labrum anterior and posterior (SLAP).”
A SLAP tear indicates a “superior labrum anterior and posterior (SLAP)” injury. This means the tear occurs in the labrum at the top (superior) area of the shoulder socket, as well as in front (anterior) and back (posterior) of where the biceps tendon attaches to the labrum. It is not unusual for a SLAP tear to be accompanied by some sort of damage to the biceps tendon, as well.
Categories of SLAP Tears
There are numerous categories of SLAP tears, including:
- Type 1 – Labrum is frayed, but biceps tendon remains attached, usually due to a degenerative condition.
- Type 2 – Labrum is frayed, and biceps tendon is no longer attached; the most prevalent type of SLAP injury.
- Type 3 – Vertical tear with front and back still attached (“bucket handle” tear), so the torn portion may droop into the shoulder joint; the biceps tendon remains intact.
- Type 4 – A type 3 tear that extends into the biceps tendon.
SLAP tears are one of the most common types of injuries affecting the labrum.
Bankart tears are another common type of injury to the labrum of the shoulder. A Bankart tear occurs when the labrum pulls away from the lower half of the socket, most often during a shoulder dislocation as the arm bone pops out of the shoulder socket. Bankart tears are named after the orthopedic surgeon who described the injury and its surgical repair.
Symptoms of a SLAP Tear
The primary symptoms of a SLAP tear are shoulder pain and shoulder instability (when your shoulder gives way). The type of pain you experience may vary from person to person, and it will depend on the extent of the tear. Generally speaking, however, the pain is described as a deep, aching sensation – accompanied by movement restriction due to the pain.
Treating SLAP Tears
Whether or not you require surgery to treat your SLAP tear will depend on a number of factors, including the severity of your injury and its response to conservative treatments like rest, anti-inflammatory medication (including corticosteroid shots), and physical therapy.
If surgery is required, a minimally invasive procedure called arthroscopy is the most common method used. Because only a small incision is made, and miniature surgical instruments are used, patients enjoy less post-op pain and scarring, as well as a faster recovery. Surgery may include removing damaged tissue, suturing the tear, and other actions, as needed.
Shoulder SLAP Tear Repairs in Knoxville and Athens, TN
A SLAP tear at the shoulder doesn’t just cause pain and restricted movement of your arm – it contributes to shoulder instability and can lead to repeat shoulder dislocations. Get the treatment you need for a labral tear by calling orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Hovis at The Shoulder Institute at ORTHOKnox at (865) 251-3030.