SLAP Lesions

What is a SLAP lesion?

Our shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint comprising three bones: the humerus or the upper arm bone, the scapula, the shoulder blade and clavicle or the collarbone. The head of the upper arm bone inserts into the glenoid, the rounded socket in your shoulder blade. A rim of strong, fibrous tissue called the labrum surrounds the outer edge of the glenoid. The function of the labrum is to deepen the socket and stabilize the shoulder joint. It also acts as a connection point for various ligaments of the shoulder, as well as one of the tendons located in the biceps muscle in the arm.

The term SLAP refers to Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior. A SLAP tear is basically an injury to the labrum of the shoulder. In a SLAP injury, the top or the superior part of the labrum is injured. This top region is also where the biceps tendon connects to the labrum. A SLAP tear could occur both in front or anterior and back or posterior of this attachment point. The biceps tendon could also be involved in the injury.


  • Injury caused by fall on your outstretched arm.
  • Injury caused by fall on your shoulder.
  • Bracing yourself with your outstretched arm in an accident.
  • Lifting heavy objects repeatedly or too suddenly.
  • Performing a lot of overhead activities, such as throwing a baseball.

People who take part in repetitive overhead sports, such as athletes or weightlifters, can experience labrum tears due to repeated shoulder motion. However, in patients above 40 years of age, labrum tears can be seen as a normal process of aging.


Symptoms of a SLAP tear may include:

  • Popping or clicking in the shoulder.
  • Feeling severe pain when you move your arm over your head.
  • A feeling of weakness or instability in the shoulder.
  • Aching pain


A SLAP tear is often too hard to identify, because there are so many other conditions that could cause shoulder pain and because SLAP tears are not that common. Some of the methods used to diagnose a SLAP tear include:

  • A series of tests in which the doctor examines the shoulder joint of the patient to see which or what kind of movements are causing the pain.
  • MRI arthrogram in which a special dye is injected into the shoulder of the patient before the MRI scan.
  • Arthroscopic surgery.


The first step in treatment is to identify whether medication and rehabilitation can take care of the problem. Anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medicines such as Aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen may help relieve the pain.

Recovery and Rehabilitation:

Rehabilitation would often include various exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and to gently stretch the back of the shoulder. However, for most people, arthroscopic surgery is the only thing that helps to counter the condition.