Child Orthopedics

Frequently Asked Questions

Our 17-year old son is a javelin thrower on his high school track and field team. He injured himself last season and was diagnosed with a SLAP tear. What are his chances for full recovery for this year's track season?

The term SLAP lesion refers to a tear in the cartilage around the shoulder socket. A small, lip of cartilage around the rim of the socket is called the labrum.

SLAP refers to the location and extent of the tear. S stands for superior or the top of the shoulder. L is for labrum. A and P for anterior and posterior describe the location and length of tear from front to back.

SLAP injuries are ranked as Type 1 (mild) to Type 4 (severe). Most SLAP lesions are surgically repaired, especially in a high-level athlete. Type 1 is gently scraped or shaved free of any frayed edges. Types 2 and 3 may need to be stitched back into place. Type 4 usually indicates the biceps tendon has torn away from the labrum. It must be repaired, too.

The athlete will be involved in a shoulder rehab program with a physical therapist. Motion is gradually restored along with strength. Sport-specific exercises are added several months later. A javelin thrower would be able to start a throwing program after about four months of rehab.

Full return to the sport is possible but not usually in the first year. The earliest return to competition has been reported at seven months post-op. It usually takes about 18 months to restore full function.

James R. Lebolt, DO, et al. SLAP Lesions, 2007. In The American Journal of Orthopedics. December 2006. Vol. 35. No. 12. Pp. 554-557.

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