Glenoid Labrum Tear (Shoulder) | Orthopaedics | Loyola Medicine

Glenoid Labrum Tear (Shoulder)

Overview and Facts about Glenoid Labrum Tear (Shoulder)

The glenoid labrum is a ring of fibrous tissue that is attached to the rim of the shallow socket of the shoulder blade (where the upper arm bone, or humerus, sits).

An injury or tear to this tissue usually occurs due to overhead throwing, falling on an outstretched arm or catching/lifting heavy objects below shoulder height.

These injuries affect the top of the glenoid socket (SLAP lesion) or the bottom (Bankart lesion). Glenoid labrum tears may also occur due to a dislocated shoulder. 

Symptoms of Glenoid Labrum Tear (Shoulder)

Signs of a glenoid labrum tear are usually brought on by an injury event, such as a fall or overhead throw. In addition to pain localized to the glenoid labrum area, symptoms may include:

  • Reduced range of motion
  • Pain with daily activities, especially those that involve overhead motions
  • Loss of strength or stability in the shoulder 

Causes and Risk Factors of Glenoid Labrum Tear (Shoulder)

Injury from a traumatic event or repetitive motion is the most common cause of a glenoid labrum tear. An injury or tear to this tissue usually occurs due to overhead throwing, falling on an outstretched arm or catching/lifting heavy objects below shoulder height. Other causes include:

  • A sudden blow to the shoulder
  • Shoulder dislocation

Athletes involved in weightlifting or repetitive throwing are at higher risk of a glenoid labrum tear. 

Tests and Diagnosis of Glenoid Labrum Tear (Shoulder)

To diagnose a glenoid labrum tear, your doctor will discuss your medical history (including the event of injury) and conduct an evaluation of your symptoms. He/she will then examine your shoulder, testing for joint mobility and looking for signs of weakness, range of motion and pain. He/she may also order an MRI or CT scan to confirm the area of the shoulder that is injured. An MRI may be combined with an injection of a contrast medium into the joint, enabling your doctor to better see any tears or ligament damage.

Your doctor will also be able to determine if this injury affects the top of the glenoid socket (SLAP lesion), the bottom (Bankart lesion) or is the result of a dislocated shoulder.

Arthroscopy, a minimally invasive procedure that allows your doctor to diagnose and treat problems in a joint, may be needed for proper diagnosis. 

Treatment of Glenoid Labrum Tear (Shoulder)

Your doctor will first recommend rehabilitation exercises, as well as rest and anti-inflammatory medication to treat a glenoid labrum tear.

If these methods are unsuccessful, your doctor will refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon for arthroscopy to surgically repair the torn tissue.

After arthroscopic repair, you will need to wear a sling for a period of time to allow the area to heal, after which you will begin motion and flexibility exercises to regain strength and range of motion in your shoulder.