Professional Labral Tear Treatment

At any given moment, roughly 25% of adults are suffering from some form of shoulder pain. Shoulder injuries are also very common in athletics, specifically in throwing sports where a very high demand is placed on the structures of the shoulder. A Superior Labrum from Anterior to Posterior (SLAP) tear is one such example that is common in athletes that participate in overhead sports.

The labrum is a ring of cartilage that provides stability to the shoulder joint. A SLAP tear may occur from overuse such as repetitive throwing, or from acute trauma such as falling on an outstretched hand. The nature of this injury makes it common among pitchers, javelin throwers, quarterbacks, volleyball players, and other sports and specializations that require a lot of throwing or overhead arm movements.

SLAP tears are starting to be considered a normal adaptation in throwing athletes, allowing them to access more motion and potentially throw at a higher velocity. This may explain why research shows that throwing athletes may actually be more likely to return to sport with rehab alone as compared to surgery for a SLAP tear.

Physical therapy – and possibly surgery depending on the severity and mechanism of the injury and sport returning to – will be recommended for the management of your labral tear.

Shoulder Labrum Tear Symptoms

Athletes suffering from a labral tear often experience:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Mechanical symptoms such as clicking, locking, popping
  • Shoulder instability
  • Decreased motion and strength in the shoulder
  • Decreased performance in sport

O’Brien’s Test (Shoulder Labrum Tear Test)

The O’Brien’s test is often referred to as a test that can determine whether or not someone has torn their labrum. However, this test has been shown to have weak clinical value for the diagnosis of a SLAP tear. 

The O’Brien’s test is performed with the arms extended straight out in front of you at shoulder height with the thumbs facing down. Your physical therapist will then press the patient’s arms downward while the patient attempts to resist the pressure. The patient will then be asked to flip their thumbs up and the physical therapist will again press downward on the patient’s hands while the patient attempts to resist. The test is considered to be positive for a SLAP tear if pain is experienced with the first part of the test and not with the second part of the test. 

This test may give you information on a provocative position of the shoulder, but should not be used as a diagnosis of a SLAP tear.

Labrum Tear Treatment

At Herlong Sports Physical Therapy, our team of knowledgeable physical therapists in Maryland will provide you with a comprehensive plan for the treatment of your labral tear. While some injuries may require surgery, many labral tears can be healed strictly through physical therapy.

If your injury requires surgery, we recommend undergoing a prehab program prior to your surgery to improve your odds of making a complete recovery. 

Treatment of your labral tear will consist of a comprehensive program to regain shoulder function so that you can return to full participation in sport/athletic activity.

Our goals during your physical therapy will include restoration of full range of motion, strength, power, and performance of your shoulder. Treatment will depend on the activity you’re returning to, but will likely consist of a gradual progression of stretching, strength training, plyometrics, and sport-specific activity until you are able to perform all tasks required of your specific activity, sport, or job.

Torn Labrum Recovery Time

Conservative treatment of a SLAP tear typically takes around 3-6 months for full recovery of function. 

What Patients Are Saying

Torn Labrum Exercises

Shoulder External Rotation Isometric 

To perform this exercise…

  1. Stand with your arm at your side, elbow bent to 90 degrees, and your elbow pinned to your side. You will need an immovable object to stand with the hand of your involved extremity against, such as a door frame or wall. 
  2. Keeping the elbow pinned to your side, press your hand outward into the immovable object as if you were trying to rotate your hand outwards, hold for 30 seconds 
  3. Repeat 3 times per day.


Shoulder Internal Rotation Isometric 

To perform this exercise… 

  1. Stand with your arm at your side, elbow bent to 90 degrees, and your elbow pinned to your side. You will need an immovable object, such as a door frame or beam. 
  2. Stand facing the beam and have your hand open with the thumb facing up. Stand in a position that allows your hand to be flat on the beam. 
  3. Keep the elbow pinned to your side then press your hand inward into the beam as if you were trying to rotate your hand inwards, hold for 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat 3 times per day.



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