SLAP Tear - Recovery Tips
Also known as a superior labral tear, this is a tear of the labrum, or the cartilage bumper along the socket of the shoulder. It is frequently seen in pitchers and other throwing and overhead athletes, as well as athletes in contact and collision sports.
More Resources to Get Better
Should you try surgery or rehab for a SLAP tear?
In this Ask Dr. Geier video, I discuss a specific injury in which surgery isn’t always the only treatment option – a SLAP tear, or superior labral tear, of the shoulder.
Return to sports after SLAP repair
In this Ask Dr. Geier column, I answer this question from a reader who wants to get back to recreational activities after surgery to repair a SLAP tear of the shoulder.
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In the past, orthopedic surgeons made long incisions to open up the shoulder and fix the damage. Now we can do most of these surgeries through small incisions with a scope.
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The Injury Evaluation Course
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Through the stories of a dozen athletes whose injuries and recovery advanced the field (including Joan Benoit, Michael Jordan, Brandi Chastain, and Tommy John), Dr. Geier explains how sports medicine makes sports safer for the pros, amateurs, student-athletes, and weekend warriors alike.Get the Book
Frequently Asked Questions on SLAP Tear Injuries
- +What is this injury?
-What is this injury?SLAP tear is a tear of the labrum at the superior aspect of the glenoid (or top of the shoulder). Also known as a superior labral tear, it is frequently seen in pitchers and other throwing and overhead athletes. It is also seen in contact and collision sports in which an athlete is hit on the shoulder or lands on the shoulder or outstretched arm.
- +What are the common treatments?
-What are the common treatments?Initially, management can focus on rehabilitation of the shoulder. Strengthening the muscles around the shoulder, stretching the posterior capsule, working to improve the mechanics of shoulder motion, and stabilization training are among the methods used by physical therapists to decrease an athlete’s symptoms. Surgical treatment is indicated if the athlete is not improving and the symptoms prevent him from performing his sports activities. The technique employed surgically depends on the type of tear found. If the labrum and its attached biceps tendon are pulled off the glenoid, then the labrum and biceps tendon anchor are repaired back to the glenoid. If the labrum is frayed but not unstable, the surgeon uses an arthroscopic shaver to smooth out, or debride, the labrum.
- +How long could it take to recover?
-How long could it take to recover?Full recovery requires time to regain full strength, motion and shoulder function. Recovery differs greatly depending on the nature of the treatment needed to fix the problem. If nonsurgical treatments are sufficient, a patient can overcome the pain and regain strength and motion in weeks. Recovery can take 6 to 8 weeks if the surgeon only debrides, or "cleans up," the tear but could require up to six months or more if the surgeon reattaches the superior labrum with stitches and anchors.
- +What should I ask my doctor?
-What should I ask my doctor?It is always a good idea to ask if surgery is necessary and if there are nonsurgical treatment options that can be tried first. If you choose to undergo surgery, understanding what restrictions the surgeon will place after surgery and what you can safely do, such as driving and working, are important. Also ask when you could expect to safely return to your sport or exercise.