Close look on a SLAP tear

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A SLAP tear is a specific form of injury to the shoulder. The stability of the shoulder is provided by the labrum which is a ring of dense tissue around the shoulder socket.

SLAP stands for “superior labrum, anterior to posterior” which means the upper part of the labrum from the anterior to the back. It refers to the region of the labrum that is damaged or torn.

What are the possible causes of a SLAP tear?

  • Falling on an extended arm
  • Falls on the shoulder
  • Bracing the body with an outstretched arm during a vehicular crash
  • Lifting heavy objects repeatedly or too abruptly
  • Engaging in a lot of overhead activities such as throwing a baseball
    SLAP tears
    Pain when the arm is moved over the head or throwing a ball.

In most cases of SLAP tears, it can be accompanied by other injuries to the shoulder such as a rotator cuff tear.


  • Clicking, popping or catching sensation in the shoulder
  • Pain when the arm is moved over the head or throwing a ball
  • Feeling of instability or weakness in the shoulder
  • Aching pain


The initial step in treatment is to check if pain medications and rehabilitation can deal with the condition.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be given for pain relief such as naproxen and ibuprofen. These are available over-the-counter or by prescription. You can also apply ice or heat on the shoulder for 15-20 minutes at a time. In case the shoulder is sore, a sling should be used to support the arm.

Rehabilitation includes exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and gentle stretching of the back and shoulder. The doctor will also instruct the individual on how to perform exercises and avoid pain.

In some cases, surgery might be the only option. With arthroscopic surgery, the doctor has a close view of the injury and perform the necessary repairs at the same time.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on SLAP tears is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage joint injuries by taking a standard first aid course with one of our training providers.

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