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Causes of Torn Labrum

The shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket structure kept lubricated and mobile by a complex structure of cartilage (gel-like “cushions” between the bones), ligaments, tendons, and muscles. 

In particular, the labrum is a thick, rubbery layer that runs along the rim of the socket (glenoid). The labrum has the role of keeping the head of the arm bone (humerus) in place, thus allowing movements such as rotating your arm and avoiding dislocations. 

Tears can occur within the labrum itself or between the labrum and the shoulder socket, and they are often caused by injury, overuse, or forceful movements. Let’s look at these risk factors in more detail below.


Falling onto an outstretched arm or suffering whiplash from a car crash can cause tears in the shoulder labrum. This is because the cartilaginous layer will stretch beyond capacity during an abrupt or abnormal movement of the shoulder.

Age-Related Degeneration of the Cartilage

Aging involves a natural degeneration of the cartilage between the bones, making tears more likely in people aged 40 and over. This happens because the cartilage loses elasticity and suppleness over time, but the degeneration can be sped up by conditions associated with aging, such as arthritis.


Chronic injury may speed up the degeneration of the shoulder cartilage, making tears more likely. Playing certain sports, especially the ones that involve regular overhead or throwing movements, may lead to labral tears. These sports include weightlifting, tennis, softball, football, baseball, and swimming. The prevalence of labral tears in NFL players is as high as 19%. 

Some occupations that involve performing manual labor and handling heavy machinery may also lead to damage to the shoulder labrum.

Forceful Overhead Movements

A sudden and forceful overhead movement can lead to tears. These include lifting a heavy weight improperly or suffering a hard pull on one arm.

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Symptoms of Torn Labrum

There are several ways to categorize labral tears based on the intensity of the symptoms a person experiences or on the type and severity of the tear. Here is an overview:

  • Bankart tears: These are more common among patients who have suffered a shoulder dislocation. Bankart tears occur when the “ball” of the shoulder joint slips out of the “socket” and pulls on the front lower part of the labrum. Bankart tears may cause the labrum to detach completely from the bone. 
  • SLAP tears: SLAP stands for superior labrum anterior to posterior tear, a common injury among athletes. This tear occurs at the front of the shoulder, where the tendons connect the biceps to the “socket” of the shoulder. During an injury, these tendons can pull on the labrum, which can cause a tear. 

Tears, especially due to degeneration of the cartilage, may happen within the labrum itself, without causing it to become detached from the bone.  

Although some labral tears are asymptomatic, depending on the injury you’ve suffered, you may experience a range of symptoms. Below are the most common ones.

Shoulder Instability 

When the labrum becomes torn or detached from the bone, it may no longer be able to keep the “ball” of the shoulder joint (or the head of the arm bone) in place. This can lead to a sensation of shoulder instability, especially when moving your arm.

Shoulder Dislocations

In severe cases, patients with labrum tears can become more prone to dislocations and subluxations of the shoulder. This is because a torn labrum is unable to keep the humerus (the arm bone) in place, especially during forceful or repeated movements.


One of the most common symptoms of labral tears is pain, which may begin at the top or front of the shoulder (depending on where the tear occurs) and radiate to the arm. The painful sensations can be more prominent at nighttime or when lying on the injured shoulder, which can lead to sleep disturbances.

Catching and Popping Noises

Catching, popping, locking, and grinding noises are common in people with a SLAP tear. This is because the tendons surrounding the shoulder joint become looser and slap from one bony surface to another during movement. In the case of Bankart tears, popping noises may be due to the labrum cartilage getting caught between the “ball” and the “socket” of the joint during shoulder or arm motions.

Decreased Range of Motion

Labrum tears can cause you to temporarily lose strength and range of motion in the shoulder. This is due to several factors. Firstly, the torn labrum may prevent the head of the arm bone from moving as it should within its socket. Additionally, the friction caused by a torn labrum may irritate and inflame the joint, which leads to swelling and stiffness of the shoulder.

Regenerative Treatment Options for Labral Tears

Because the symptoms of a torn labrum in the shoulder overlap with the ones of other conditions, diagnosing this condition can be challenging. This leads to inadequate treatment plans that include pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and corticosteroid injections. 

In severe cases, patients with a labral tear also face the prospect of undergoing surgery, which is sometimes needed to reshape or replace parts of the labrum. Surgical interventions can take 12 months or longer to heal completely. 

Fortunately, today’s advances in regenerative medicine allow patients to access an alternative that does not involve invasive procedures or taking medications. Below, we’ll look at the regenerative orthopedic treatments used in combination by the team of specialists at Orthagenex to provide patients with customized treatment programs.

Super-Concentrated PRP for a Torn Labrum

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) refers to autologous blood samples that have been processed to have platelet concentrations that are 10-40 times higher than baseline levels . The use of PRP in regenerative medicine has received significant interest, due to its ability to deliver high concentrations of growth factors precisely and non-invasively to an area in need.

PRP procedures involve injecting the body’s own healing factors (platelets) into the injured tissue using image guidance with fluoroscopy and MSK ultrasound. This procedure can be used to treat a variety of orthopedic conditions, including joint instability, minor arthritis, ligament, and tendon injuries, and strains.

More than 30 randomized controlled trials have been carried out on the effectiveness of PRP to support the body’s ability to heal naturally by stimulating the stem cells within the targeted area. In the case of labral tears, reviews have shown that PRP treatments can improve the native functionalities of the shoulder.

Bone Marrow Concentrate Stem Cell Injections for a Torn Labrum

Stem cells are an essential component of the human body and play an important role in the repair of injured bones, ligaments, tendons, and other tissues. However, when we age or suffer an injury, the body may become unable to deliver enough stem cells to the area in need.

To help with this, bone marrow concentrate procedures at Orthagenex use imaging guidance to deliver concentrated bone marrow containing stem cells to the area in need . This encourages the body’s inherent ability to heal itself by replenishing the stem cell population in the injured area.

In practice, bone marrow concentrate procedures are carried out by cannulating the bone near the pelvis with a trocar, a sharp-tipped device. This provides a narrow tunnel that can be used to collect samples of the bone marrow’s liquid component, which is rich in stem cells.

BMC procedures can assist patients in improving their shoulder health and mobility without the lengthy and painful rehabilitation periods associated with surgery.


Labral tears can be severe and painful conditions that inhibit your shoulder’s function for months at a time. However, thanks to the availability of regenerative orthopedics, surgery doesn’t have to be your only option. 

At Orthagenex, we can help you access a personalized treatment program that uses BMC and PRP injections in combination, precisely placed using image-guidance. 

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