≡ Menu

Latest News

SLAP Tears: Understanding Labral Tears In the Shoulder

Author: Rosemary Buckle, M.D.

Down, set, hike! The quarterback receives the snap, draws his arm back, releases the ball, and slap! Except this time, the “slap” isn’t the satisfying sound of the football landing securely in the receiver’s hands. Instead, the slap stands for “Superior Labrum Anterior Posterior,” an injury to the shoulder’s labrum, a cartilage ring that surrounds the socket of the shoulder joint.

Unfortunately, SLAP tears are fairly common sports injuries in quarterbacks, pitchers and other athletes who routinely perform rapid arm motions above shoulder level. However, these acute shoulder injuries can happen to anyone – whether or not you’re an athlete. Other causes of SLAP tears include:

  • Falling onto an outstretched arm
  • Car accidents and other trauma
  • Shoulder dislocation
  • Quickly lifting or catching a heavy object

Symptoms of SLAP Tears

The symptoms caused by a SLAP tear may include:

  • A popping or clicking in the shoulder
  • Pain when the arm is raised over head
  • Weakness, instability, or a general achiness of the shoulder

Diagnosing SLAP Tears

One of the fascinating aspects of orthopedic medicine is the new diagnostic tools and technologies that have developed in recent years. It wasn’t long ago that SLAP tears were virtually unrecognized due to technological limitations in seeing the interior of the shoulder joint.

Today, however, your Houston orthopedic physician can see the interior of the shoulder joint using laparoscopic technology, which allows a precise view of what’s going on with the shoulder’s anatomy.

Arthroscopic surgery is the only way to positively diagnose a SLAP tear, ruling out other possible diagnoses. The good news is that SLAP tears can oftentimes be repaired during the diagnostic procedure. Other diagnostic tools include:

  • Physical exam
  • Passive and active range of motion tests
  • MRI

Treating SLAP Tears in Houston

In most cases, SLAP tears can be treated non-surgically with NSAIDs, physical therapy, and exercises that improve flexibility and range of motion. The majority of patients who do have orthopedic surgery to repair the shoulder report improved strength and reduced pain.

Schedule With a Houston Sports Medicine Physician

If you have suffered a shoulder injury, see your physician or Houston sports medicine physician for an evaluation. Many shoulder injuries, such as SLAP tears, can take several months to heal. While this may mean time off the field, getting an evaluation and treatment as quickly as possible can lead to a faster return-to-play clearance in some cases. Schedule an appointment with your Houston orthopedic doctor by calling (713) 756-5546. You can also schedule your Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics appointment online.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.