SLAP tears or labrum lesions are shoulder injuries where the labral cartilage is damaged in the upper part where the biceps tendon connects. Due to its positioning, a SLAP tear can be mistaken for other shoulder injuries and require a more thorough examination to determine the precise nature of the trauma.
Individuals that sustain a SLAP tear usually notice a reduction in their athletic performance, discomfort when they move their shoulder, and an acute, deep pain emanating from the joint.
- Shoulder pain (moving or static) – Strenuous activities such as lifting heavy objects over shoulder level or sports involving overhead motions can generate discomfort. Certain fixed positions of the joint can also lead to painful sensations, including arms extended outward or stretching behind the head.
- Reduction of athletic abilities – Athletes are the most prone demographic for SLAP tears; when labral damage occurs, their shoulder power is diminished, accompanied by stiffness in the upper side of the arm.
- Affected range of motion – Individuals that suffer a SLAP tear notice that they have difficulties when they try to extend their arm or attempt overhead activities.
- Difficulty when lifting objects – Weightlifters generally notice acute discomfort when trying to perform overhead lifts, and non-athletes lifting heavy objects above shoulder level likewise experience pain.
- Imprecise source of pain – Acute internal discomfort is one of the most cited symptoms of a SLAP tear, even though it may be difficult for patients to identify where the source of the pain is accurately located. The back of the shoulder is most commonly affected; however, pain can be felt in the front of the joint if the biceps tendon is also injured.
- Unusual joint sounds and sensations – Although these symptoms may be shared with other types of shoulder injuries, popping and clicking sounds and joint stiffness and grinding sensations are regularly associated with SLAP tears.
- Shoulder instability – Patients affected by SLAP tears may feel that their joint is unsteady and experience a loosening sensation indicative of a possible dislocation.