SLAP tears refer to an injury to the superior glenoid labrum, the upper region of the specialized cartilage surrounding and providing stability to the shoulder socket.
SLAP stands for “superior labrum anterior to posterior”. The most common tear includes a detachment of the long head of the biceps tendon, the large muscle of the upper arm, from the labrum around the glenoid (socket).
SLAP tears can result from traction or compression movements that lead to a steady increase in pain. Traction injuries are seen in athletes that throw overhead and from sudden forces like catching oneself while falling to the ground.
The shoulder will pop or click after a SLAP tear and lead to difficulty and pain with overhead movements and reaching across or behind. The pain can be described as deep within the joint.
Physical therapy is needed to strengthen and stretch the muscles around the shoulder, especially the back of the shoulder which can become tight in overhead athletes. If conservative therapy fails and an MRI confirms the tear, surgery is often recommended.