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Understanding Shoulder Tears

Shoulder tears seem like a common term used these days; but what exactly do people mean when they say they have a shoulder tear? And what exactly is torn? The shoulder is one of the most complex joints we have in our body. It allows us a amazing range of motion, enabling us to carry out tasks with our arms and hands that we often take for granted. Until we can’t.

Ball and Socket Joint

The shoulder employs the concept of a ball and socket joint. In the shoulder, the glenoid (formed by the bones of the upper arm) forms the “socket”. But this socket is quite shallow. Certainly not for vigorous arm movement like throwing a ball. To deepen this socket, the body adds a rim of  fibrous tissue called the “labrum“. With this labrum, the socket joint is more stable.

However, like other fibrous tissue in the body like ligaments, they can tear. Usually as a result of trauma like a direct blow to the shoulder joint or falling with the arm outstretched, or repetitive strain from repeated motion like a tennis serve. A common tear is the SLAP tear or Superior Labrum Anterior Posterior.

Some trivia: The name SLAP Tear is derived as follows – Superior refers to the upper part of labrum. The labrum part is obvious meaning the .. labrum. The Anterior and Posterior part refer to the being anterior (front) and posterior (back) of the bicep tendon (see Figure 4)

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