Shoulder SLAP Tear - Topic Overview
What is a SLAP tear?
A SLAP tear is a specific
kind of injury to your shoulder.
To help make your shoulder more
stable, there is a ring of firm tissue, called the
labrum, around your shoulder socket. The labrum (say
"LAY-brum") helps keep your arm bone in the shoulder socket.
stands for "superior labrum, anterior to posterior"—in other words, "the top
part of the labrum, from the front to the back." It refers to the part of the
labrum that is injured, or torn, in a
SLAP injury .
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
- Brace yourself with your outstretched arm in a car
- Lift heavy objects repeatedly or too
- Do a lot of overhead activities, such as throwing a
This injury was first identified in the 1980s in
athletes, like baseball players, whose sport requires them to do a lot of
Many people with SLAP tears
also have other shoulder injuries, such as a tear in the
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of a SLAP tear may
- Popping, clicking, or catching in the
- 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.
How is a SLAP tear diagnosed?
A SLAP tear can be
hard to identify, because there are so many other things that can cause
shoulder pain and because SLAP tears are not common. Ways to diagnose a SLAP
- A series of tests in which your doctor moves
your shoulder joint around to see which movements are causing your
- MRI. A special dye is injected into your shoulder
before you have an MRI scan. When a dye is used, the test is called an MRI
- Arthroscopic surgery. This is the only
sure way to know whether you have a SLAP tear. Your doctor will make small
cuts, called incisions, in your shoulder. Then he or she can look at the inside
of your joint by inserting a tiny camera attached to a thin tube. The doctor
may be able to repair the tear at the same time.