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SLAP Tears In Child Athletes

Young pitcher on the mound in a youth baseball game

What Is A SLAP Tear?

The term SLAP tear stands for Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior.  A SLAP tear is an injury to the labrum (the cartilaginous ring that surrounds the socket portion of the shoulder joint).

What Causes SLAP Tears?

There are many injuries that can result in a SLAP tear.  SLAP tears can be divided into two broad categories: those that happen acutely and those that result over time.  In acute injuries, the SLAP tear may happen from a fall on an outstretched arm, a forceful pull when trying to catch a heavy object or prevent yourself from falling, or any other force on the arm when it is above the level of the shoulder joint. 

Overhead athletes, such as weightlifters and throwers may sometimes develop SLAP tears due to the repeated shoulder motion, which leads to the labrum injury.  Finally, SLAP tears may occur slowly over time and be part of the normal aging process.  This begins to happen in the third and fourth decades of life.  

How Do I Know My Child Has A SLAP Tear? 

SLAP tears generally do not have specific symptoms and present in a similar way to other shoulder injuries.  With a SLAP tear, the patient may feel a locking or catching sensation as you move the shoulder.  Feelings of decreased strength, pain with lifting the arm or weights overhead, and sensations of shoulder popping are also common with SLAP tears.  

Overhead athletes may experience decreased range of motion and pain with certain arm positions. Pitchers especially, may notice a decrease in throwing velocity, loss of accuracy or the feeling of a “dead” arm after throwing.

Dianosisng and Treating A SLAP Tear With Your Pediatric Orthopedist

The history and the nature of the symptoms are very helpful for the doctor to diagnose the injury. During your visit, the doctor will examine your shoulder, looking at the range of motion, strength, and stability of the joint.  Your doctor may order X-rays to evaluate the shoulder.  If there are suspicions of an injury an MRI may be ordered for further evaluation.  

SLAP Tear Treatments

In most cases, the initial treatment for a SLAP tear does not involve surgery.  A course of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and icing will likely be recommend to reduce the swelling, inflammation, and pain of the shoulder.  Physical therapy, focused on restoring range of motion and strengthening of the muscles around the shoulder joint to normalize shoulder mechanics and prevent further injury, will likely be recommended.  It may take up to 6 months of therapy until you achieve the full benefit.  

If you continue to experience pain despite nonsurgical treatment, the doctor may discuss surgical treatments for the SLAP tear.  The treatment would involve a shoulder arthroscopy, using small incisions, a camera, and special small instruments to evaluate and treat the shoulder.  This type of procedure is less invasive than traditional open surgery.

Healing From A SLAP Tear Surgery

After the surgery, your shoulder will be protected in an immobilizer for a few weeks to let the repaired structures heal.  Following this period of rest, a course of physical therapy will begin focusing first on range of motion with gradual strengthening protocol.  The length of therapy and when you will be able to resume sports will depend on your specific case and will be discussed with you by your surgeon.

When To See The Pediatric Orthopedic Center

If you feel your child is experiencing symptoms or signs related to this injury, it may be time to visit us. The Pediatric Orthopedic Center is the premier NJ hub for pediatric orthopedics, with three offices throughout northern NJ. Having been the leader in pediatric orthopedics in this area for 30 years, we are the largest and most award-winning pediatric orthopedic practice in the tri-state area.

Schedule an Appointment with a Specialist Today

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Know Before Your First Visit

Verify the date and time of your appointment. You may be required to complete new patient paperwork or provide personal information prior to being seen by your doctor. Please arrive approximately 30 minutes prior to your appointment time.

Confirm the address and location of your appointment. The Pediatric Orthopedic Center has four convenient locations in New Jersey. Confirm with the front desk staff the office location for your visit.

Be aware of travel issues and delays. Be mindful of any driving conditions, road construction detours and parking requirements to ensure you arrive for your appointment on time.

Urgent Care for Acute Injuries (Cedar Knolls)

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Walk-In Hours Update

*Urgent and Acute Injuries Only during Urgent Care/Walk-in Clinic hours. To find out if your child’s injury qualifies for a walk-in visit, click here. (Walk-in fees may apply.)


Regular Hours: 9am-5pm
Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 5pm-8pm


Regular Hours: 9am-5pm
Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 5pm-8pm


Regular Hours: 9am-5pm
Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 5pm-8pm


Regular Hours: 9am-5pm
Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 5pm-8pm


Regular Hours: 8am-5pm
NO walk-in hours.


Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 10am-2pm

Sunday: Closed

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