A SLAP tear is a shoulder injury that affects the labrum of the shoulder, which is a ring of cartilage that surrounds the shoulder socket and helps hold the head of the humerus in place. SLAP tears can occur after direct trauma or from repetitive shoulder motion.


Trauma to the shoulder, such as falling on an outstretched hand, is the most common cause of SLAP tears. It can also happen after catching or pulling something heavy. Repetitive, forceful motion is another common cause of SLAP tears. Throwing athletes and weightlifters often experience this type of injury.


Common SLAP tear symptoms include pain, difficulty moving the shoulder, a locking or popping sensation, weakness, and feeling like the shoulder could move out of place. For athletes, it may be difficult to lift and throw.


Because symptoms of a SLAP tear are similar to other shoulder conditions, physicians will carefully assess symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will also identify range of motion, strength, and pain. Imaging tests such as x-rays and MRIs may be used to identify damage to bones and soft tissue.


Most SLAP injuries can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications, rest, and physical therapy to strengthen the shoulder and restore movement. If symptoms do not improve, minimally-invasive surgery may be required.

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