SLAP Tears In Softball Pitchers: What Causes Them, And How Can They Be Treated?

SLAP Tears In Softball Pitchers: What Causes Them, And How Can They Be Treated?

7 May 2020
 Categories: Health & Medical , Blog

Softball may have an unfair reputation as baseball's slower and less dangerous cousin, but this high-intensity sport can still inflict some pretty serious injuries on the people who play it. Softball pitchers can be particularly vulnerable to injuries, and the violent, repetitive motion of pitching and catching balls can deal some particularly serious damage to the shoulders.

Many softball pitchers at both an amateur and professional level suffer from persistent and often excruciating shoulder pain, which can be intensely debilitating for any player. This pain can be caused by a number of injuries and problems common in softball pitchers, and so-called SLAP tears are some of the most common.

What are SLAP tears, and why do they occur in softball players?

The glenoid labrum is a small but highly important piece of cartilage attached to your shoulder blade, which helps keep the shoulder blade joint in place and protects it from damage. However, this protective piece of tissue can be itself be vulnerable to damage.

The forceful motion of repeated softball pitch can place significant strain on the glenoid labrum. As you raise your arm and rotate it backwards quickly to deliver a pitch, the shoulder blade joint presses hard against the cartilaginous tissue, placing it under immense and very sudden strain which is violently released as you pitch the ball. This repetitive strain can eventually cause the glenoid labrum to tear or become injured, which is known as a SLAP (superior labral tear from anterior to posterior) tear.

Symptoms of a SLAP tear can vary, but the most common symptoms are a dull, constant ache in the affected shoulder blade, coupled with noticeable loss of strength and mobility when your arm is raised. It goes without saying that this will seriously affect your pitching ability, and even minor SLAP tears can cause noticeable drops in your pitching speed and accuracy. You may also have trouble sleeping on the affected shoulder, which can place more pressure on the damaged tissue.

What should you do if you think you have a SLAP tear?

If you believe you may have suffered from a SLAP tear while pitching, seeking a proper diagnosis from a reputable sports injury clinic is essential. The symptoms of SLAP tears are very similar to those of other common shoulder injuries, such as rotator cuff tears and nerve impingement, and determining the actual cause of your shoulder pain and weakness is vital.

If you have suffered a SLAP tear in your pitching shoulder, sports therapy clinics can provide a range of effective therapies, many of which are non-invasive. If you are in significant pain, a range of pain management techniques can be used, from basic oral painkillers to more advanced techniques such as ultrasound therapy. Physiotherapy and other muscle-strengthening techniques can then be used to restore strength and mobility in the damaged shoulder and allow the glenoid labrum to heal correctly. 

If you are suffering from a more advanced SLAP tear, you may require a minor surgical procedure to repair the tear manually. These procedures are usually minimally invasive, as shoulder surgeons can repair the labrum using tiny keyhole incisions that heal quickly.  Depending on the sports injury clinic you choose, this surgery may be performed in-house or you may be referred to a shoulder surgery specialist.

Contact a clinic like Town Center Orthopaedic Associates, P.C. to learn more.