What are SLAP tears?
The shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket joint. The 'ball' of the top of the upper arm bone (the humerus) fits neatly into a 'socket', called the glenoid, which is part of the shoulder blade (scapula). The term SLAP (superior labrum anterior-posterior) lesion refers to an injury of the superior labrum of the shoulder. The labrum is a ring of fibrous cartilage surrounding the glenoid for stabilisation of the shoulder joint. The biceps tendon attaches inside the shoulder joint at the superior labrum of the shoulder joint. The biceps tendon is a long cord-like structure which attaches the biceps muscle to the shoulder and helps to stabilise the joint.
Causes of SLAP tears
The most common causes include falling on an outstretched arm, repetitive overhead actions such as throwing, and lifting a heavy object. Overhead and contact sports may put you at a greater risk of developing SLAP tears.
Symptoms of SLAP tears
The most common symptom is pain at the top of the shoulder joint. In addition, catching sensation and pain most often with activities such as throwing may also occur.
Diagnosis of SLAP tears
Diagnosis is made based on the symptoms and physical examination. A regular MRI scan may not show up a SLAP tear and therefore an MRI with a contrast dye injected into the shoulder, is ordered. The contrast dye helps to highlight SLAP tears.
Treatment of SLAP tears
Your doctor may recommend anti- inflammatory medications to control pain. In athletes who want to continue their sports, arthroscopic surgery of the shoulder may be recommended. Depending on the severity of the lesion, SLAP tears may require debridement or repair. A SLAP repair can be done using arthroscopic techniques that require only two or three small incisions.
You should engage in regular exercises that make the shoulder muscles strong. Adequate warm-up exercises before activities and avoiding high contact sports can help prevent injuries that cause instability.