SLAP tears

SLAP is an abbreviation for Superior Labral tear from Anterior to Posterior and a tear of the superior labrum which is the ring of cartilage that surrounds the socket of the shoulder joint.

These are commonly seen in sports people particularly involved in overhead motion like in tennis, squash, badminton players and swimmers as well.


Symptoms have been described as a sharp popping or catching sensation which can be brought about by certain shoulder movements and generally causes vague aching that lingers afterwards.


MRI scans helps diagnose this condition. Occasionally, a hole in the tendon, which is normal, can sometimes be misdiagnosed as a SLAP tear. Repairing the 'tear' in this case can cause restriction of shoulder movements and hence all these tears should be evaluated thoroughly at the time of arthroscopic surgery to confirm traumatic changes.

Treatment Procedures

Literature on conservative treatment of SLAP tears is minimal. SLAP tears are treated by arthroscopic debridement or repair using suture anchors (a device used to fix tendons) depending on the extent of the tear. If the tear also involves the biceps tendon (tendons that run along the upper arm bone), depending on the condition of the tendon, it may either be debrided or separated from the attachment to the top part of the labrum and reattached to the humerus .This can cause the shoulder to feel 'tight' thereby restricting movements. Physical therapy is extremely important to help regain shoulder movements. Only passive range of movements is allowed for about 3 weeks, followed by active movements afterwards. Return to normal activities normally takes at least 3 months.