What Is a Labral Tear in the Shoulder?


Quick Answer

A labral tear in the shoulder is a tear of a piece of fibrous cartilage that helps keep the ball of the shoulder joint in place, states Johns Hopkins. Tears of the labrum, the fibrous cartilage, exist in several forms.

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What Is a Labral Tear in the Shoulder?
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Full Answer

The labrum tears fully off the bone in the first type of tear, states Johns Hopkins. This type of tear usually occurs with a subluxation or dislocation injury. Patients sometimes do not even realize the shoulder has slid in this type of tear.

The second type of tear involves tearing within the labrum, explains Johns Hopkins. Over time, the labrum's edge may become frayed. Symptoms rarely result from this type of tear, which usually occurs in people over the age of 40. In rare cases, the labrum develops a large tear, and a portion of it invades the joint.

A third type of labral tear happens in the area where the biceps tendon attaches to the upper socket, explains Johns Hopkins. The biceps tendon blends in with the labrum in this location, and injuries here usually involve both the tendon and labrum. Injuries to this area can be mild or severe. In mild injuries, the labrum only partially detaches. In severe injuries, the entire labrum and biceps tendon detach from the bone.

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