SLAP Tears: Cause & Symptoms

A slap tear is an injury to the shoulder. SLAP stands for “superior labrum, anterior to posterior”.  This means that the top portion of the labrum is injured from the front to the back. The labrum is a ring of tissue located around the shoulder socket and it is there to stabilize the shoulder due to the extensive amount of movement associated with it. So what exactly causes a SLAP tear and what are the symptoms? This article will help to answer some of these questions.

Our shoulder is made of a ball and socket joint consisting of three different bones. The bones are the upper arm bone, the shoulder blade and the collarbone. The head of the upper arm bone is designed to fit nicely into the socket in the shoulder blade. Each person’s ball and socket joint is unique to him only. The labrum is a thick and strong fibrous tissue that helps to deepen the socket and promote stability to the shoulder joint. It also helps to attach the ligaments and tendons in the area.

A SLAP tear will occur from the area just in front or behind the biceps tendon. SLAP injuries were first observed in baseball players due to the nature of the game. SLAP tears are often due to repeated usage of the shoulder joint. It can also be due to sudden trauma to the shoulder such as a traction force or a pull on the arm. An attempt to break a fall using the shoulder can also be responsible.

The most accurate symptom of a SLAP tear is pain. However, almost everything can cause pain! Almost every movement associated with the shoulder joint will result in pain for the patient. There will also be a decrease in shoulder strength and a feeling of instability. The range of motion will also be significantly decreased. Baseball players may also observe a decrease in the velocity of their throw after pitching.

A trained medical specialist should only diagnose SLAP tears. There are several tests such as the O’Brien’s test, Apprehension Sign and Jobe Relocation Test that are highly reliable when used together as a whole package. This can be aided by a MRI scan which will help to identify the presence of a SLAP tear and the exact location.

A SLAP tear is a challenging medical injury and the treatment must be done in a timely manner due to the many ptifalls in the diagnosis and management of such injury.

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