What is a SLAP tear?

A SLAP (Superior Labrum from Anterior to Posterior) tear is an injury to your shoulder joint, specifically the labrum. Your labrum is a cuff of cartilage that forms a cup at the end of your arm bone that allows it to move inside. Your shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint, and because the socket of your shoulder joint is extremely shallow, it is much more unstable than other joints, leaving it vulnerable to injury.

SLAP tears are often caused by heavy lifting, repetitive overhead motions, and falls, but we have also represented a large number of clients who sustained this type of injury because of their car accident

Where does this type of injury occur?

A SLAP tear occurs at the point where the tendon of the biceps muscle inserts on the labrum. 

How can an car accident cause a SLAP tear shoulder injury?

No matter the speed or size of a collision, your body will always absorb a percentage of the impact, and if you've been diagnosed with a SLAP tear injury, it likely resulted from the force absorption you underwent after tensing up and bracing your hands against the steering wheel. Once a person is in that rigid state the shoulder is locked causing it to receive an excessive amount of pushback upon impact. 

What are the symptoms of this type of injury?

Only a physician can correctly and accurately diagnose a SLAP tear; however, you may experience any of the following symptoms that indicate serious injury:

  • Moderate or severe pain during any overhead activities (throwing, etc.)
  • Sensations of grinding, locking, or popping
  • A decrease in your range of motion
  • Loss of strength in your arm
  • Occasional night pain/difficulty sleeping
  • Sensation of pain during your normal daily activities
  • Sensation of instability in your shoulder

How does a doctor detect the injury?

There are several tests a skilled examiner can perform to detect for SLAP tears, though these injuries are not often easy to detect. As well, SLAP tears are not easily identified on MRIs, and sometimes the injury is not diagnosed until surgery. If a physician is able to diagnose the tear before surgery, it is through careful questioning and identifying specific symptoms such as those listed above.

What types of treatment are available?

A large number of people with this type of tear may require arthroscopic surgery. Because there is very little blood flow to this area of your shoulder, traditional means of healing can be difficult to achieve. However, some people may respond to a more traditional, non-evasive form of treatment. Non-surgical forms of treatment may include:

  • non-prescription and prescription strength pain relievers
  • cortisone injections
  • supervised physical therapy
  • period of rest and inactivity to allow inflammation to subside 

Is rehabilitation difficult?

The length of rehabilitation following surgery will largely depend on the severity of the tear as well as the client's pre-existing health. 

Usually, our clients will undergo 3 phases of therapy:

1) The patient will be ordered to restrict shoulder movement for a period of of about six weeks following their surgery, though some passive motion is allowed to prevent shoulder stiffness.  

2) After the torn labrum has healed into its proper position, patients enter a second phase of rehabilitation and can begin more motion at about six weeks. 

3) Additional exercises and therapy are assigned to increase the muscles that surround the shoulder joint. 

Full recovery from surgery and therapy is often expected to take 3 to 4 months.

Why do car accident victims with SLAP tears need a lawyer?

Shoulder injuries can be especially difficult to try and handle without an attorney. The reason many of our clients called our office was because they were told by the adjuster that their shoulder tear was a pre-existing condition or that it wasn't caused by the car accident. In almost every single one of our clients' cases this proved to be false.

A SLAP tear is a legitimate shoulder injury that can be caused by a car accident and Keller & Keller will work to maximize your claim. If you'd like to speak with one of our attorneys about your shoulder injury case, please contact us for a free, no-pressure legal consultation so that we can give you options that will protect your rights.

James R. Keller
Connect with me
Partner at Keller & Keller