Slap Tear Specialist

ORTHOKnox -  - Orthopaedic Surgeon


Orthopaedic Surgeons - Shoulder, Knee, and Orthobiologic Injection Specialists located in Knoxville, TN

A SLAP tear is a labral tear in a specific part of the shoulder. If you develop a SLAP tear, you will typically have pain, occasionally popping, and often loss of motion in your shoulder. SLAP injuries are common in baseball players and other overhead athletes. They are also common in older adults due to natural age-related degeneration. The providers at ORTHOKnox in Knoxville, Tennessee, specialize in sports medicine and shoulder injuries, and are very accustomed to treating SLAP tears. To schedule an appointment, call the office or book an appointment online.

Slap Tear

What is a SLAP tear?

One of the structures in your shoulder joint is the labrum, which is a thick ring of cartilage around the rim of the socket. The cartilage deepens the socket and holds the ball-shaped top of the humerus in the joint.

The labrum can sustain several types of tears. It can come completely away from the bone, tear along the labral edge, or tear where the bicep tendon attaches to the labrum.

SLAP is an acronym for superior labrum anterior and posterior. Here’s what that means:

A SLAP tear means that the top (superior) part of the labrum is torn both in front (anterior) and in the back (posterior) of the point where the biceps tendon attaches. When you sustain a SLAP injury, chances are the biceps tendon is also affected.


What causes a SLAP tear?

Most SLAP tears develop gradually from repetitive overhead movements. Baseball and softball players are especially vulnerable to SLAP tears, but the injury can develop in other sports and in jobs that require overhead arm movements, such as weight lifting or swinging a hammer.

Another primary cause of a SLAP tear is an age-related degeneration of the labrum. You can also develop the injury following an acute trauma such as:

  • Shoulder dislocation
  • Fall onto an outstretched arm
  • Forceful pull on the arm such as with water skiing
  • Automobile accident

You may suffer a SLAP tear due to any type of quick or forceful movement of the arm when it’s above the shoulder.


What symptoms will I develop due to a SLAP tear?

You’ll experience symptoms such as:

  • Locking, catching, popping, or grinding of your shoulder
  • Pain when you move the shoulder
  • Pain when lifting objects overhead
  • Diminished shoulder strength
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Feeling like the shoulder joint could dislocate

If you’re a pitcher, you’ll notice a significant decline in your throwing velocity and accuracy.


How is a SLAP tear treated?

Your doctor at ORTHOKnox usually begins treatment with physical therapy to restore movement, improve flexibility, and strengthen the shoulder. The on-site physical therapists work with you to develop a customized treatment that heals your current injury and prevents future problems.

If you still have pain after physical therapy, your doctor may recommend surgery to repair the labrum. This procedure is performed arthroscopically.

After surgery, you’ll continue physical therapy to rehabilitate your shoulder and restore optimal strength and function.

If you develop shoulder pain or decreased movement, call ORTHOKnox or book an appointment online.