Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ


What's a SLAP shoulder injury? Is that a new term for rotator cuff tear?


A SLAP (superior labral anterior posterior) shoulder injury is not the same as a rotator cuff tear. Both affect the shoulder. Different parts are injured. In the rotator cuff tear, one of four tendons around the shoulder is torn.

The SLAP lesion is a tear of the fibrous rim along the upper portion of the glenoid cavity (shoulder socket). The upper (superior) part of the labrum anchors one of the two tendons of the biceps muscle.

A SLAP injury occurs if the arm is bent inward at the shoulder enough times or with enough force. The upper arm (humerus) acts as a lever and tears the biceps tendon and labrum cartilage from the glenoid cavity. The tear occurs in a front-to-back (anterior-posterior) direction. That's why it's called a superior labrum anterior-posterior tear. In simpler terms it's an upper rim front-to-back injury.

The SLAP lesion can occur as a result of overuse or trauma. It's most common among overhead throwing athletes. When the force of injury is great enough the rotator cuff can be torn along with the labrum.

Jinji Ide, MD, PhD, et al. Sports Activity After Arthroscopic Superior Labral Repair Using Suture Anchors in Overhead-Throwing Athletes. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. April 2005. Vol. 33. No. 4. Pp. 507-514.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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