Physical Therapy for SLAP Tear Recovery

SLAP tear physical therapy Dec21st 2021

There are a lot of different types of “slaps” in the game of baseball.  You can slap a single down the third base line, slap hands after nine innings of competition, or slap your glove in frustration after bobbling a routine ground ball.  Unfortunately, there is another type of slap that occurs all too often for baseball players: a SLAP tear.  A SLAP tear is a serious type of sports injury that typically occurs over time for many baseball players at all levels.  The repetitive overhead motion and stress and strain on the shoulder can lead to the development of this injury when the proper stretching, training, and technique are not used.

What is a SLAP Tear?

SLAP stands for superior labral tear, anterior to posterior.  These initials describe a labrum tear at the top of the shoulder from front to back.  This tear occurs where the labrum connects with the biceps tendon.  A SLAP tear can cause shoulder dislocations, pain, and overall problems using your shoulder.

What are the Symptoms of a Labrum Tear?

Baseball players have a natural rhythm and feel as the throw and catch a ball, in addition to other regular, everyday activities athletic or otherwise.  If a SLAP tear has occurred, it should be noticeable.  Signs include:

  • Discomfort when lifting objects
  • Pain with shoulder or other arm movement
  • Shoulder instability or weakness
  • Intense pain in the back of the shoulder joint
  • The sensation of catching or popping during shoulder movements

What Exercises Can Prevent SLAP Tears?

Preventing a SLAP tear is possible through proper throwing techniques, stretching, and the management of how arms of all ages are utilized.  Limiting pitch counts and doing exercises to strengthen the muscles that can minimize strain on the shoulder and biceps tendon will reduce the potential for a labrum injury. 

There are also regimens that can reduce the risk of SLAP tears.  Stretches that emphasize the shoulder capsule reduce the strain on the adjoining ligaments.  Strengthening the muscles around the shoulder blades, or scapulae, can help to keep those muscle and tendons strong enough to withstand the repetitive motion of baseball throws.  Plyometric training around this part of the body is also effective in mitigating the risk of tears.  Plyometric training applies maximum force over a minimal amount of time; this concept echoes the kinesiological concept of a pitch, conditioning the arm toward that type of motion and force.

How Can Physical Therapy Treat a SLAP Tear?

Acute labrum tears can create intense pain.  Due to the instability of the shoulder, treatment should be thorough, deliberate, and calculated.  You should entrust your post SLAP tear treatment to an experienced physical therapy team that has vast knowledge on the biomechanics of the shoulder girdle.  Tactics like dry needling and superb manual therapy are beneficial and effective methods to restore the natural range of motion of your shoulder after a SLAP injury. 

The staff at Evolve Physical and Sports Therapy is experienced in helping athletes of all ages and skill ranges get back on their feet, or in this case, arms.  Having a strategic treatment and recovery plan is critical in returning to the field and minimizing the long-term effects of any injury.

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