SLAP Tear of Shoulder Joint

SLAP stands for “superior labrum from anterior to posterior.” This type of shoulder labral tear occurs at the top (“superior”) of the glenoid labrum where it connects to the biceps tendon, and it extends in a curve from the chest (“anterior”) to the back (“posterior”). SLAP lesions are considered as separate entities from other labral tears because the superior labrum is the attachment site of the long head biceps tendon. Injuries to the labrum in this region can result in labral symptoms, biceps symptoms or both.

SLAP tears (also called SLAP lesions) vary in severity from minor fraying to complete detachment from the shoulder socket. They are common injuries among overhand athletes who make forceful arm movements, such as baseball players or tennis players.


Causes of SLAP tear

SLAP tears have three causes:

  • Chronic injury. SLAP tears can happen over time in people who play sports or do exercise that requires lots of overhead motion. Playing baseball or softball, swimming or lifting weights are common causes for SLAP tears. Chronic injury is the most common cause of a SLAP tear.
  • Acute injury. SLAP tears can happen if you try to block a fall with your outstretched arm or you use abrupt jerking movements to lift heavy objects.
  • Aging. SLAP tears can simply happen as your labrum wears out over time. This tear is usually seen in people age 40 and older.

Symptoms of SLAP tear

SLAP tears can cause pain and range-of-motion problems in the shoulder labrum, the biceps tendon or both. Common symptoms of a SLAP tear include:

  • dull or aching pain in the shoulder, especially while lifting over the head
  • a painful feeling of clicking, popping or grinding in the shoulder during movement
  • difficulty performing normal shoulder movements
  • pain at the front of the shoulder near the biceps tendon
  • limited range of motion

Diagnosis Of SLAP tear:

Providers use the following tests to diagnose SLAP tears and determine treatment:

  • Physical examination. Your doctor will check your arm and shoulder range of motion and strength.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or MRI arthrogram.

Type of SLAP tear:

There are several different SLAP types and sub-types. The most common SLAP tear is the type 2 tear. Type 2 tears have several sub-types, each describing different ways a type 2 tear might appear:

  • Type 1: In this type of tear, your labrum shows signs of fraying or shredding but still functions. Type 1 tears are often seen in people who are middle-aged or older.
  • Type 2: This is the most common SLAP tear type. In Type 2 tears, the labrum and bicep tendon are torn from the shoulder socket.
  • Type 3: Torn labrum tissue is caught in the shoulder joint.
  • Type 4: In this type, the tear that started in your labrum tears your bicep tendon.


SLAP tear treatment depends on the amount and kind of damage healthcare providers find when they examine your labrum. They might recommend non-surgical therapies first before concluding surgery is the best option. Regardless, SLAP tears can take months to fully heal.

Here are common SLAP tear treatments:

  • Rest.
  • Anti-inflammatory Drugs.
  • Cortisons Shots.
  • Physical therapy.
  • Debridement.
  • Arthoscopic labra surgery to repair your labrum.
  • Bicep tenodesis.

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