SLAP tear – a common rugby injury

There’s been some rugby on recently – something we can’t really miss as a Richmond-based business.

With that in mind we wanted to take a look at one of the most common rugby injuries that we treat – one effecting the shoulder.

A superior labrum from anterior to posterior tear – or SLAP tear for short – is a common injury in rugby players but can easily happen to any of us.

How does it happen?

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint, one which is inherently unstable that gives us the range of movement we all take for granted. To counteract the instability there are several structures around the joint that help to improve stability. One of these structures is the glenoid labrum – think of it as ‘suckers’ that connect the ball and socket.

Like any soft tissue structures this can become torn in a variety of different ways, whether that’s falling heavily or twisting the arm outside of its natural range.

There are different grades of SLAP tear depending on the severity – this article nicely outlines the different grades and what that means.

Spotting the symptoms

The common symptoms of a SLAP tear will be a feeling of reduced stability or weakness in the shoulder – if you do bench or shoulder press exercises then you’ll notice it more here.

If playing rugby, for example you may notice the pain and/or weakness in the tackle and even when passing, but most movements in a game like that would be sore for an injured shoulder.

The solution

The bad news is that SLAP tears generally don’t heal well. The good news is that this doesn’t necessarily matter; and wear and tear over time is perfectly normal.

Physio is the first step to get rid of any pain and to improve the strength in the shoulder. However depending on the severity surgery may be required and your physio will advise you if this is the case. This video shows what’s involved with surgery.

While physio will help out in most cases, for those who require surgery  it’s time to stock up on the boxsets and add to the Netflix lists. For the few months after surgery you’ll have to go carefully with how much you can do. Some people will be able to return to work in some capacity but others may need to be signed off for longer.

Rehab will commence almost immediately with some gentle pendular-type exercises. After a few weeks you’ll be referred to physio for outpatients and they’ll be able to advise on the best exercises and how to progress them.

If you’re worried about a potential SLAP tear or any other injuries, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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