A SLAP tear or SLAP lesion is an injury to the glenoid labrum (fibrocartilaginous rim attached around the margin of the glenoid cavity). SLAP is an acronym for "superior labral tear from anterior to posterior".
Injuries to the superior labrum can be caused by acute trauma or by repetitive shoulder motion. An acute SLAP injury may result from:
People who participate in repetitive overhead sports, such as throwing athletes or weightlifters, can experience labrum tears as a result of repeated shoulder motion.
The common symptoms of a SLAP tear are similar to many other shoulder problems. They include:
The initial treatment of SLAP tears is usually with rest, ice and gradual resumption of activities with the assistance of physical therapy. Many people with SLAP tears get better with a period of rest and rehabilitation.
In those people who continue to have pain that limits their ability to do sports or interferes with daily activities, then surgery can be recommended.
Repair of SLAP tears is performed arthroscopically, and is performed on an outpatient basis. After surgery, the shoulder is placed in an immobilizer for about four weeks to allow the repair to heal. Physical therapy is started at this time, and return to sports takes approximately four to six months.
In many cases, the initial treatment for a SLAP injury is nonsurgical. Treatment options may include:
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication - Drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen reduce pain and swelling.
Physical therapy - Specific exercises will restore movement and strengthen your shoulder.
Flexibility and range-of-motion exercises will include stretching the shoulder capsule, which is the strong connective tissue that surrounds the joint. Exercises to strengthen the muscles that support your shoulder can relieve pain and prevent further injury. This exercise program can be continued anywhere from 3 to 6 months, and usually involves working with a qualified physical therapist.
Your doctor may recommend surgery if your pain does not improve with nonsurgical methods.
Arthroscopy - The surgical technique most commonly used for repairing a SLAP injury is arthroscopy. During arthroscopy, your surgeon inserts a small camera, called an arthroscope, into your shoulder joint. The camera displays pictures on a television screen, and your surgeon uses these images to guide miniature surgical instruments.