Comprehensive Care for the Most Complex SLAP Lesions

Our board-certified and fellowship-trained sports medicine physicians have a strong tradition of excellence in patient care and cutting-edge research for improved outcomes and stronger recovery. With expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of any type of shoulder injury, shoulder specialists at University Hospitals can take care of the most complex issues, including SLAP lesions.

A superior labral tear from anterior (front) to posterior (back), or SLAP tear, is a full tear of the cartilage in the shoulder socket. This rim of cartilage, called the labrum, helps stabilize the head of the upper arm bone. A torn labrum that arises along the top of the socket is known as a SLAP tear or SLAP lesion. Another type of labral tear is called a Bankart tear, when the head of the joint either shifts toward the front of the body which is called anterior instability or the back which is called posterior instability. Because your shoulder provides more motion than any other joint in the body, both types of labral injury usually are painful and restrict shoulder movement.

SLAP tears are often caused by shoulder injuries from a motor vehicle accident, a fall onto an outstretched arm or a shoulder dislocation. These lesions can also form in athletes due to repetitive throwing or other constant overhead motions from sports including baseball or swimming. SLAP lesions may also be the result of normal wear of the labrum, which can occur with age.

If you experience a SLAP lesion, you will likely face SLAP tear symptoms such as painful popping or clicking in the shoulder, pain when you throw a ball, pain when you move your arm over your head, a frozen shoulder, and aches inside your shoulder.

The shoulder specialists at University Hospitals offer a range of solutions for patients with SLAP lesions. We focus on strengthening the shoulder and restoring its range of motion and function.

Initial SLAP Tear Treatment

The majority of patients with a SLAP tear respond well to conservative treatments including:

  • Ice: Applying ice to the shoulder can reduce swelling and control inflammation so your tendons can return to their normal state.
  • Injections: Although the effects of cortisone injections are temporary, they may provide relief for a few months.
  • Medications: Anti-inflammatory medications can aid in the reduction of swelling and inflammation and minimize shoulder pain as a result.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy stretching and strengthening labral tear shoulder exercises can restore normal range of motion and support muscle endurance.
  • Rest: By resting the shoulder, you may improve inflammation and relieve your symptoms.

Expertise in Arthroscopic SLAP tear surgery

In the event your SLAP tear symptoms continue despite conservative or traditional treatment, surgery may be necessary. With high-volume specialized surgical experience, our team actually pioneered some of the medical industry’s latest technological and procedural innovations. Our team uses the latest arthroscopic shoulder surgery techniques which offer smaller incisions and a faster recovery time. The two arthroscopic shoulder surgeries that are effective for SLAP lesions include:

  • Labral repair, also called Bankart repair, surgery for unstable dislocated shoulder: In this procedure, sutures and anchors are used to correct the unstable shoulder.
  • SLAP lesion surgery: To perform SLAP lesion surgery, our orthopaedic surgeon will make repairs through small incisions in the shoulder. This procedure can be completed in as little as 45 minutes.

Individualized Rehabilitation Programs

After your surgery, you will likely wear a sling for several weeks so your shoulder is protected while you heal. When the initial shoulder pain and swelling has subsided, a sports physical therapy program that is tailored to your specific needs will begin.

At first, physical therapy will focus on gentle stretches that are designed to prevent a stiff shoulder and improve your range of motion. As you heal, strengthening exercises will be introduced into your physical therapy routine. The type of SLAP tear surgery you received as well as your rehabilitation progress and lifestyle will determine when you’ll be able to resume sports and normal activities.

Contact Our Shoulder Specialists Today

For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of any shoulder injury, including SLAP lesions, contact us today. One of our team members will help you schedule an appointment with one of our shoulder specialists at any of our convenient locations.