SLAP Tear Specialist

Joseph B. Wilson, MD

Orthopedic Shoulder Surgeon located in Raleigh, NC & Apex, NC

A SLAP tear is the most common injury to affect the shoulder labrum, a tough ring of cartilage that helps hold your arm in place. At Shoulder Expert of Raleigh, fellowship-trained orthopedic shoulder surgeon Joseph Wilson, MD, provides patient-centered care for SLAP tears at three locations in Raleigh, Apex, and Durham, North Carolina. If you think you have a SLAP tear, call the nearest office, or request an appointment online today.


What is a SLAP tear?

The head of your humerus fits into a shallow socket in your shoulder blade called the glenoid. The labrum is a circular rim of cartilage that surrounds the glenoid, deepening the socket and stabilizing your shoulder. 

A superior labrum anterior and posterior (SLAP) tear affects the top, or superior, part of the labrum. This area is also the attachment point for your biceps tendon. A SLAP tear happens in the front (anterior) and rear (posterior) parts of the attachment. SLAP tears may involve a biceps tendon tear as well.

A Bankart lesion is a kind of SLAP tear that extends to the lower front part of the labrum.

What causes SLAP tears?

SLAP tears have a wide range of causes, from normal effects of aging to acute trauma and repetitive stress. Common causes of SLAP tears include:

  • Falling on an outstretched arm
  • Motor vehicle collisions
  • Shoulder dislocation
  • Quick or forceful movement when the arm is above shoulder level

Athletes who lift weights or participate in throwing sports like baseball, and anyone who uses overhead arm motions for work, are at increased risk for SLAP tears.

How can I tell if I have a SLAP tear?

Symptoms of a SLAP tear are similar to those of other shoulder problems, like a rotator cuff tear. Common symptoms include:

  • Shoulder pain that worsens with certain movements or positions
  • Pain when lifting things, especially overhead
  • A locking, catching, or popping sensation in the shoulder
  • Limited range of motion
  • Shoulder weakness

If you have symptoms of a SLAP tear, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis from an expert like Dr. Wilson.

How is a SLAP tear diagnosed and treated?

First, Dr. Wilson carefully reviews your medical history and symptoms. He examines your shoulder and observes your range of motion. He may also order tests, like an X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, to evaluate the tissues in your shoulder.

Usually, initial treatment for a SLAP tear includes nonsurgical methods like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and physical therapy.

If your injury is severe, or if conservative treatments aren’t effective, Dr. Wilson may recommend surgery. He may use arthroscopy to perform a SLAP repair.

For advanced treatment of a SLAP tear, call Shoulder Expert of Raleigh, or book an appointment online today.