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Understanding & Treating SLAP Tears

A SLAP (Superior Labral Anterior Posterior) tear, or Slap lesion, is an injury to the labrum in your shoulder joint. The labrum is cartilage that connects the socket of the scapula to the head of the humerus. When this soft tissue tears, there isn’t enough comfortable cushion spaced between the bones. Typically, SLAP tears are caused by heavy lifting and the natural wear and tear of age or overuse. However, they are also an injury commonly sustained after a car collision.

How Do Car Accidents Lead to SLAP Tears?

A common reaction to an imminent car accident is to brace yourself for impact by tightly grabbing the steering wheel with both hands. By tensing in this rigid position, your shoulders are forced to absorb some level of the accident impact, leading to damaged muscles, tendons, and cartilage.

The symptoms of a SLAP tear include:

  • Intense shoulder pain
  • Grinding, locking or popping of the shoulder
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Loss of arm strength
  • Night pains and difficulty sleeping
  • Sensation of instability in the shoulder

Only a physician can accurately diagnose your SLAP tear, so it’s important to seek medical attention if you exhibit any of these symptoms.

How Are SLAP Tears Diagnosed?

SLAP tears can be notoriously difficult to detect because they aren’t always visible on X-rays or MRI scans. Sometimes the only way to properly diagnose the injury is through an exploratory surgery. Before taking that serious step, doctors ask their patients detailed questions about their symptoms to determine if they have a SLAP tear. Unfortunately, most people who sustain SLAP tears don’t even notice they’re injured until their symptoms progressively worsen.

SLAP Tear Treatments

For most patients, the best treatment for a SLAP tear is arthroscopic surgery. During this treatment, a surgeon inserts a small camera into your shoulder joint and uses the pictures to cut small incisions into your shoulder. The surgeon may be able to repair the damage by using miniature surgical instruments. Because there are several different types of SLAP tears, it’s up to your surgeon to decide which repair option best fits your needs.

Alternatively, if the SLAP tear can’t be repaired through arthroscopic surgery, your doctor may decide to perform a bicep tenodesis to anchor the bicep to the humerus in order to alleviate any stress placed on the superior labrum.

Unfortunately, patients report mixed reviews about the long-term results of SLAP tear surgery. In fact, some patients claim that their range of motion is even worse after the procedure. Because the outcome is so uncertain, many doctors only recommend surgery as a very last result, if at all. Unfortunately, if you sustained a SLAP tear, it’s likely that you’ll experience lasting pain symptoms and other medical complications.

Non-surgical treatments include:

  • Pain medication
  • Cortisone injections
  • Physical therapy

Recovering from a SLAP Tear

Recovering from the surgery can take about 3-4 months. For the first month you may need to wear a sling to restrict any shoulder movement. Once the pain and swelling decrease, your doctor will have you start a physical therapy program to improve your range of motion and flexibility.

Pursue Compensation with Our Experienced Team

If you’ve sustained a SLAP tear injury due to the actions of a negligent driver, contact the St. Louis car accident attorneys at Buchanan, Williams & O’Brien, P.C. We can represent your claim both in and out of court and negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf. Our legal team works on a contingency fee basis, so you don’t have to worry about paying any attorney fees until you’re awarded damages.

Because we’ve successfully guided many clients through this complicated legal process, we understand that it isn’t easy for accident victims to come to our office for an appointment. For your convenience, our lawyers can meet you at your home or hospital room.

Our firm offers evening and weekend appointments. Call Buchanan, Williams & O’Brien, P.C. at (314) 635-7606 to schedule your case evaluation.

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