A SLAP tear, also known as a superior labral tear, is when part of the shoulder joint known as the labrum is torn. The shoulder is similar to the hip as they are both ball and socket joints, but the shoulder joint is very shallow, so it is unstable. The labrum helps make the shoulder more stable by forming a cup that the end of the humerus can move around in.
How do SLAP Tears Occur?
A SLAP tear commonly occurs from lifting heavy objects, falling onto an outstretched hand, or large amounts of a repetitive overhead action, such as throwing a football.
The part of the labrum where a superior labral tear occurs has very few blood vessels, so it is more prone to injury and slower healing. Other parts of the labrum have the ability to heal easier because there is more of a blood supply in the area.
Symptoms of a Superior Labral (SLAP) Tear
Symptoms of a SLAP tear include a painful ‘catching’ sensation when moving the shoulder, usually more-so with overhead movements such as throwing. A pain that is deep within the shoulder or in the back of the shoulder joint is often commonly reported.
Diagnosing a SLAP Tear
A regular shoulder physical examination will include the tests needed to be performed to detect for a superior labrum tear. A doctor will usually ask specific questions to help indentify symptoms associated with a SLAP tear.
SLAP tears may not show up well on a MRI scan so diagnosing a SLAP tear may prove a little difficult. Injecting contrast into the scan can help display the tear better with a MRI scan. A SLAP tear may not be diagnosed until it is time for surgery.