Labral Tears and SLAP Tears
The labrum is a ring of specialized cartilage resting on the outer edge of the socket of the shoulder joint (Figure 1). The labrum serves to deepen the shoulder socket and make it more concave. It helps keep the ball inside the socket.
The labrum can be torn anywhere along its length. It frequently tears as a result of injury or shoulder dislocation. It can also tear because of repetitive wear and tear, such as in throwing athletes. It can also tear as a result of degenerative disease such as arthritis.
The biceps tendon passes from the arm into the shoulder joint where it attaches to the labrum. Physicians frequently speak of SLAP tears. SLAP is an acronym for Superior Labrum Anterior to Posterior—technical terms describing the location of this common tear. SLAP tears can be a source of shoulder pain, particularly in overhead athletes.
Typical treatment for labral tears involves activity modification, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. When medical treatment fails, arthroscopic repair of the labrum can be performed leading to reliable pain relief and restoration of function (Figure 2).