A SLAP tear is an injury to a part of the shoulder joint called the labrum. The labrum is the cuff of cartilage that extends the socket part of the shoulder blade to better accept the ball end of the arm bone.

A SLAP lesion is a tear that occurs where the tendon of the biceps muscle meets the labrum.

Common causes of a SLAP tear include:

  • Fall onto an outstretched hand
  • Repetitive overhead actions (throwing)
  • Lifting a heavy object

Symptoms of a SLAP lesion can include:

  • A catching sensation, clicking or locking in the shoulder.
  • Pain in the front or top of the shoulder.
  • Increased pain with movement, especially with overhead activities.
  • Decreased range of motion of the shoulder and arm.

Determining if pain is caused by a SLAP lesion is sometimes difficult because the injury often does not show up well on normal MRI scans. However a MRI scan with dye placed into the shoulder is often helpful to diagnose a labral tear. Sometimes, though, an actual diagnosis is made at the time of surgery when the orthopaedic surgeon has an opportunity to look inside the shoulder, most often during an arthroscopic surgical procedure.