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Slap Tears

What is a SLAP tear?

A SLAP tear is a tear of the superior, or top part, of the labrum, the soft tissue that surrounds the shoulder socket. Tears may occur after a sudden injury or with wear and tear over time - especially in overhead athletes, such as throwers or volleyball and tennis players.

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What are the symptoms of a SLAP tear?

Most people with SLAP tears experience pain when the arm is lifted overhead. This is especially common in throwers during the cocking or acceleration phase or during the serve in tennis or volleyball. Athletes may also feel a painful popping or clicking in the top or front of the shoulder.

How is a SLAP tear diagnosed?

SLAP tears are diagnosed through a detailed interview and examination with your sports medicine physician. An MRI is often used to verify the diagnosis. It is important to note that after age 40, degenerative SLAP tears, or fraying of the superior labrum, are very common. These tend not to cause severe symptoms and generally do not require treatment.

How are SLAP tears treated?

Treatment of SLAP tears is highly individualized and depends on the size and location of the tear, as well as the athlete’s specific symptoms and activity level. Many patients will improve with a change in activity, stretching program or physical therapy. People with persistent symptoms or a large tear will often require an arthroscopic surgery to repair the tear.

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