An interesting shoulder injury sometimes seen by an orthopedic doctor is called a SLAP tear. While this is not as common of an injury as a rotator cuff tear, it happens to athletes and non-athletes alike. Here’s what you should know about a SLAP tear.


The Biology

SLAP is an acronym for a specific part of your body: the Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior. The labrum is an area of very strong fibrous tissue in your shoulder joint where many of the shoulder’s ligaments are connected, as well as the bicep tendon. In a SLAP tear, the labrum’s top side has been worn down, frayed, or torn by trauma.


Many shoulder injuries seen by an orthopedic doctor are overuse injuries, and a SLAP tear is no exception. Repetitive motion like baseball pitching is one activity that may lead to this injury, but sudden force is another cause. Falling on an outstretched arm, bracing yourself for the impact coming during a car accident, or dislocating the shoulder all carry enough force to damage the labrum.


People with a SLAP tear have a pain in their shoulder that is hard to describe and when asked to point to it, they may be unsure of the source of the pain. It may be difficult to lift heavy objects or move your arm in certain ways. It may be painful to move the arm, or you may notice an uneven feeling or grinding sensation when trying to do so. Baseball players can usually notice the effects as their throw seems weaker and their arm feels odd (sometimes described as “dead”) after playing.


Treatment of this problem depends on severity. Generally your orthopedic doctor would try conservative treatments like rest, ice, and use of anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). He or she may recommend physical therapy. Last but not least, arthroscopic surgery and rehabilitation may be required.

A SLAP tear is not terribly common, but if you ever experience an accident followed by symptoms such as those described above be sure to talk to an orthopedic doctor right away.

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