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.
The SLAP tear stands for Superior Labrum from Anterior to Posterior.
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.