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SLAP Lesion of the Shoulder Joint

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in your body. The ball (or “head”) of the arm bone (humerus) rests in a shallow socket called the glenoid, much like a golf ball fits on a tee. To help make the socket deeper, the outer rim of the glenoid is ringed by tough, flexible tissue called the labrum.

Closeup of shoulder joint showing SLAP lesion. SLAP occurs where biceps tendon anchors to labrum. What Is a SLAP Lesion?

SLAP stands for “Superior Labrum Anterior to Posterior.” This means that the upper rim of the labrum has been torn from front to back. The tear occurs where the biceps tendon anchors to the labrum. Common causes of a SLAP lesion include:

  • Falling on an outstretched hand

  • Forceful lifting

  • Repeated overhead motions (such as throwing)

Diagnosing a SLAP Lesion

To diagnose the problem, your doctor will examine your arm and shoulder. This includes moving your arm in certain directions to test for symptoms. Imaging tests, such as an MRI, arthrogram, or CT scan, may also be done to look for other injuries like fractures. These provide your doctor with a detailed view of the tissues inside your shoulder joint.

Treating a SLAP Lesion

Rest and anti-inflammatory medications are often the first line of treatment. Physical therapy can also be used to strengthen the muscles in the shoulder. This helps keep the joint stable. If these treatments aren’t enough, your doctor may recommend surgery to repair the labrum.

Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Roux, Susan L., ARNP
Last Review Date: 8/3/2013
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