Labral Tear

What is a labral tear?

The labrum is an important structure in the shoulder (see picture). Its job is to help keep the shoulder stable. Like every other part of the shoulder it can get injured.  

Labral tears are named after the location of the tear. If the upper labrum is torn it is called a “SLAP” tear. Tearing of the front part of the labrum is called a “Bankart” tear. If the back part of the labrum is torn it is called a “Posterior” tear. The symptoms and treatments for each type are different.

What causes a labral tear?

The labrum usually gets injured from an accident or trauma such as from a fall or from sports.

What are the symptoms of a labral tear?

• SLAP tear: The most common symptom is pain. See the section on SLAP tears.

• Bankart tear: The most common symptom is shoulder dislocation. See the section on Shoulder Dislocation.

• Posterior tear: The symptoms of a Posterior labrum tear can be pain or dislocation.

How to tell if you have a labral tear?

Labrum tears are usually found by physical exam. X-rays are needed. An MRI is often useful.

How is a labral tear treated?

Physical therapy is usually the first treatment tried for labrum tears. Rest and activity modifications can help. If the symptoms do not go away then surgery is an option. The surgery can be performed either “arthroscopically” through a few small holes, or “open” through several small cuts in the skin.