A specific type of labral tear is called a SLAP tear; this stands for Superior Labrum from Anterior to Posterior. The SLAP tear occurs at the point where the tendon of the biceps muscle inserts on the labrum.
Common reasons for a SLAP tear include:
- Fall onto an outstretched hand
- Repetitive overhead actions (throwing)
- Lifting a heavy object
SLAP Tear SymptomsTypical symptoms of a SLAP tear include a catching sensation and pain with shoulder movements, most often overhead activities such as throwing. Patients usually complain of pain deep within the shoulder or in the back of the shoulder joint. It is often hard to pinpoint symptoms, unless the biceps tendon is also involved. In cases of SLAP tears with associated biceps tendonitis, patients may complain of pain over the front of the shoulder.
Diagnosis of a SLAP TearThere are several tests a skilled examiner can perform to detect for SLAP tears. These tests are part of a shoulder physical examination. In addition, careful questioning of the patient can help the examiner identify symptoms consistent with a SLAP tear.
Diagnosis of a SLAP tear can be difficult, as these injuries may not show up well on MRI scans. SLAP tears tend to be seen best on MRI when the study is performed with an injection of contrast. A contrast MRI is performed by injecting a fluid called gadolinium into the shoulder; the gadolinium helps to highlight tears of normal structures, including SLAP tears. Sometimes the diagnosis of a SLAP tear is made at the time of surgery.