Like the meniscus of the knee, the labrum in the shoulder is a pad of cartilage that lines and provides stability to the joint. SLAP tear is the term used to describe an injury to the superior labrum from the anterior (front) to posterior (back) of the shoulder.
Patients who have suffered a labrum injury frequently complain of a popping or clicking feeling in the shoulder. It is also common to experience pain with throwing or swimming motions and overhead activity. In a throwing athlete, as in baseball, one may experience pain only when throwing at high intensity. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) with an injection of dye into the shoulder is used to diagnose labrum tears.
Treatment of a labrum tear varies depending on how active the patient is, how much pain they are experiencing, and how extensive the tear is on MRI. Commonly treatment begins with NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen, Advil, Aleve, etc.) and a course of physical therapy to strengthen the rotator cuff and surrounding shoulder muscles. Throwing athletes are placed on a “throwing program” of physical therapy that allows them to return to competitive level of play.
If non-surgical treatment fails and the problem persists, arthroscopy of the shoulder with labral repair may be necessary.