SLAP Tear – Superior Labrum Anterior to Posterior

What is it?

The labrum of the shoulder is a rim of fibro-cartilage attached to the socket of the shoulder. The socket of the shoulder is small so the labrum/rim helps to deepen this socket to help secure the ball of the shoulder in place.

A SLAP lesion is when you get a tear in the labrum from the front (Anterior) to the back (Posterior). This tear makes the shoulder painful on movement and may give the feeling of instability in the shoulder. It may also make you experience a catching or giving way feeling in the shoulder joint.

How does this occur?

This can occur for a number of reasons: falling on an outstretched hand or repetitive overhead activities for example throwing and lifting heavy objects.

How can physiotherapy help?

Pre-op- Physiotherapy can help prior to an operation to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder and work on flexibility. This ensures the shoulder is in the best physical condition which will in turn help with recovery after surgery.

Post -op- Physiotherapy helps to gradually regain the shoulder movement and strength after the operation.  It also helps to get the shoulder in shape to return to work, sport and any other hobbies.


The area of damage in the shoulder will be confirmed by clinical examination and MRI scanning. The MRI scan will involve an injection into the shoulder to highlight any injury to the cartilage.

Surgery is performed through a keyhole technique (arthroscopy). This is through 3 or more small wounds around the shoulder. During surgery the damaged labrum (cartilage ring) is reattached to the bone by small “anchors” and stitches. Following surgery a sling will be prescribed for several weeks. After this, physiotherapy will be required to allow return of strength and movement.

Return to work light desk – as tolerated

Heavy / manual – 3-4 months

Driving 6-8 weeks

Heavy lifting 4 months

Golf 3 months

Swimming 3 months

Raquet sports 4 – 5 months

Contact sports 4 – 5 months