What is a SLAP tear?


SLAP stands for Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior. A SLAP injury occurs when the labrum, a ring of cartilage that surrounds the shoulder socket, is frayed or completely torn. This type of injury occurs where the biceps tendon meets the labrum.

What causes SLAP injuries?

Many times, these injuries are seen after a forceful incident to the shoulder, like a dislocation or falling on an outstretched arm. Other causes can include:

  • Sports injuries
  • Car accidents
  • Forceful pulling on the arm (trying to catch a heavy object)

Often, labrum tears are caused by a wearing down of the tissues. This is common in patients over 40, or athletes who participate in repetitive overhead sports, like pitchers and weightlifters.

How do I know if I have a SLAP injury?

Symptoms of SLAP tears include:

  • A feeling of locking, popping, catching or grinding in the shoulder
  • Pain during movement or while holding shoulder in specific positions
  • Pain when lifting objects
  • Decrease in strength and/or mobility
  • Looseness in the joint, or feeling like the shoulder is going to “pop out”

These symptoms are often associated with other shoulder conditions, so if you feel you may have a SLAP injury, it’s best to consult an orthopaedic specialist.


It’s important to explore non-surgical options first when considering treatment for SLAP injuries. These alternatives options can include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication or physical therapy.

Surgery is sometimes required when these injuries do not respond to medication or therapy. In most cases, the surgeon will conduct an arthroscopy. This less invasive method uses a camera inserted into the shoulder joint to guide the surgeon fixing the tear with smaller instruments. To learn more about shoulder arthroscopy, visit this blog post.

What to expect after surgery

The labrum will take time to heal, so you may need to wear a sling around your arm for two to four weeks. After the initial healing process has begun, your doctor may recommend physical therapy to aid you in recovering your mobility and strength in the shoulder joint.

For athletes, it’s important to discuss return to activity plans with your physician. Since these injuries take time to heal, it’s best to let the shoulder rest before jumping back into the game. Usually, throwing athletes return to early interval throwing three to four months after surgery. Nebraska Orthopaedic Hospital offers a program to assist athletes called Perfect Pitch. To find out more about our athletic training programs, please visit https://www.neorthohospital.com/our-services/sports-medicine.


What is a SLAP tear?

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