Due to the specificity of its structure (small contact of the articular bodies, strong connective cartilage ring that surrounds it, strong ligament-muscle structure that stabilizes it), the shoulder joint is extremely resistant to various types of trauma. However, when they do occur, then it is of utmost importance to correctly interpret the symptoms, reconstruct the traumatic event, and arrive at a proper diagnosis as soon as possible.
One of the specific and relatively common shoulder injuries is the so-called. SLAP injury. The acronym SLAP is an abbreviation of the English name of the injury (Superior Labrum from Anterior to Posterior), and it is a lesion of the anterior upper part of the connective cartilage capsule that surrounds the joint. This type of lesion is called avulsion, and is the result of a sudden pulling of the capsule with a force greater than its extensibility capacity, which causes it to rupture, and in parallel to damage the biceps tendon, so this injury is often interpreted in the treatment of biceps injuries.
How does a SLAP injury occur?
A SLAP injury typically occurs by falling on the shoulder, frequent repetitive movements that strain the biceps tendon (for example, in athletes in throwing disciplines – javelin throwing) and sudden pulling of the arm by bending it at the elbow.
Symptoms of SLAP injury
The symptomatology of the injury is similar to the symptomatology of most traumatic shoulder girdle injuries and is quite nonspecific. Usually patients complain of pain and functional difficulties in the shoulder in the form of “squeaking” and jamming movement.
How do we diagnose a SLAP injury?
A useful method in raising a reasonable suspicion of SLAP injury is magnetic resonance imaging. X-ray is not useful because it shows hard tissue, ie bone structures, while SLAP injury is a soft tissue injury that is not visible on X-ray. However, it is useful to take an X-ray to rule out other potential diagnoses.
Magnetic resonance imaging can visualize an injury, but not the exact type of injury. SLAP injury is most reliably diagnosed by the method of treatment, arthroscopic procedure, since it is the only adequate method that can identify the exact type of lesion, which then directly depends on the type of treatment and the final outcome of treatment.
The time required for recovery directly depends on the extent of the injury, the surgery performed and varies considerably from person to person. Typically, two to six weeks after surgery, an orthosis is required to stabilize the shoulder in a position that will allow the injury to heal, followed by intensive physical therapy to restore the shoulder’s original strength and range of motion.
Full recovery and return to normal life and sports (if you play sports) activities follow about three to four months after surgery.