A labral tear in the shoulder is one of several painful shoulder injuries that many athletes experience. This particular injury has to do with a ring of fibrocartilaginous structure that pads the shoulder joint. If that structure becomes damaged, it can cause pain and instability in the shoulder, and can prevent an athlete from reaching their full performance potential.

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body, and its design is complex. There are five joints within, but the Glenohumeral joint is the main ball and socket. Here, the humeral head fits like a ball into its socket, the glenoid cavity of the scapula. This ball and socket joint is aided by something called the glenoid labrum, a rim of fibrocartilaginous tissue attached to the glenoid cavity. The labrum supports and stabilizes this joint. When it’s torn, it can cause the shoulder to dislocate partially or completely.

In the sports medicine world, a shoulder labral tear is most common for throwers and other overhead athletes. This includes baseball players, football players, swimmers, and weightlifters. These sports require repetitive overhead motions that can create microtraumas from overuse. Hyperextension, heavy lifting, and a direct trauma to the shoulder can also damage the glenoid labrum.

Shoulder labral tears usually present with one or more changes to the functionality of the shoulder joint. Pain in the shoulder is the most prominent feature,

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worsened by overhead motions like throwing. Patients can also experience a decrease in range of motion, strength, endurance, and stability. A clicking or popping sound is sometimes present with shoulder movement. Throwers with a shoulder labral tear often find that their velocity and accuracy has diminished.

It’s common to see a shoulder labral tear in combination with another injury or condition, so it’s important for us to get a big picture idea of what’s going on. During the diagnostic procedure, we’ll check for tenderness and may have you perform various movements to test for a presence of a labral tear. We will need a thorough history in order to uncover the mechanism of injury, which will help with diagnosis as well as treatment.

Many cases of a torn glenoid labrum can be treated without surgery. The first step is taking care of pain and inflammation, which probably means ceasing all aggravating activities. Then we work on rehabilitation. We use years of experience and advanced tools like Mobile Resistance Training to help you restore strength and range of motion.

In severe cases of labral tears where physical therapy does not work, surgery might be required. We have treated dozens of shoulder labral tears at MOTUS and are experts in deciding which treatments are necessary for total healing.

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