shutterstock_1085178431.jpeg (shutterstock_1085178431.webp)SLAP tears are some of the most commonly sustained orthopedic shoulder injuries, especially for athletes and patients over the age of 30. You’ve certainly heard the term before -- but what exactly is a SLAP tear, anyway?

At Barrington Orthopedic Specialists, patient education is important to us, and we want everyone to understand the common injuries. Here are a few common questions our shoulder specialists receive regarding SLAP tears, and the answers you may have been looking for:

What is a SLAP tear?

SLAP stands for “Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior.” which is the ring of cartilage that surrounds the socket of the shoulder joint known as the labrum.  The tear occurs in the top (superior) area of the labrum, where the biceps tendon is attached. Specifically, the tear happens in the front (anterior) and back (posterior) of the attachment. The biceps tendon might be injured, too.

What Are The Most Common Causes of SLAP Tears? 

Any time a patient receives a SLAP injury, it’s usually due to one of two scenarios: repetitive or aggressive shoulder motion over a long period of time, or a single instance of acute trauma. However, these scenarios don’t just happen out of nowhere. Here are a few situations where you may find yourself at a heightened risk for a SLAP tear:

  • Falling onto an outstretched arm
  • Catching heavy objects
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Forcefully moving your arm above shoulder level
  • Dislocating your shoulder
  • Participating in repetitive overhead sports, like weightlifting, baseball or swimming

Additionally, SLAP injuries can be sustained as a result of simple, unavoidable wear and tear due to age and use. If you’re over the age of 30, it’s advisable to be aware of your risks for sustaining SLAP tears, and take extra special care when performing activities that involve overhead motion.

How Do I Know if I Have a SLAP Tear?

SLAP tears share a few common symptoms with other shoulder conditions and injuries. If you find yourself exhibiting any of the following symptoms, it’s time to visit an orthopedic shoulder specialist to receive a professional diagnosis:

  • Significant pain when moving and holding your shoulder in a certain position
  • Strange sensations in your shoulder, like locking, grinding or popping
  • A loss of strength and decreased range of motion in your shoulder
  • Significant pain when lifting heavy objects overhead
  • Difficulty with performing throwing motions
  • Feeling like your shoulder might actually pop out of its socket

If you’re an athlete who relies on overhead motion to play your sport, such as a pitcher in baseball or softball, you may also notice a decreased level of performance, particularly in the velocity of your throws.

If I Have a SLAP Tear, What Comes Next?

If our orthopedic shoulder specialists determine that you’ve sustained a SLAP tear injury after a thorough exam further diagnostic testing may be ordered such as an MRI arthrogram to further evaluate the injury.  Fortunately, SLAP injuries can be dealt with using non-invasive, non-surgical techniques, such as anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy to perform exercises designed to improve strength, flexibility, and restore your range of motion. 

If your injury is too severe to be effectively treated using these methods, your specialist may recommend arthroscopic shoulder surgery in order to repair the damaged tissue and offer long-term relief.  

If you’ve injured your shoulder and are seeking an accurate diagnosis from an orthopedic specialist, the orthopedic shoulder experts at Barrington Orthopedic Specialists are here to help you get the treatment you need. To be scheduled with a physician at  Barrington Orthopedic Specialists, contact our office at (847) 285-4200 or schedule online here

For urgent needs when our physician’s offices are closed, visit our Immediate Orthopedic Care (IOC) in Schaumburg, Illinois