How to Prevent a Torn Labrum

February 6, 2013 | Mo Skelton

Must See Sports Injuries Videos

The shoulder is one of the most overused joints in sports. Tremendous stress is placed on it, which can cause damage and instability. In particular, labrum tears are a common issue for athletes who are involved in baseball, golf and gymnastics. For any athlete who is experiencing shoulder pain, it's likely that you might have to rehab your joint. Note: always consult with your physician before starting a rehab program. (Prevent shoulder injuries with these exercises.)

The labrum is a connective tissue structure with a 360-degree surface area that keeps the head of the humerus in the shoulder socket. Common causes of a labral tear include dislocation from contact and overuse.

Some of the cardinal symptoms of a labral tear include a deep ache in the joint, a popping sound when moving the arm, locking in certain positions and loss of range of motion. Significant signs that a pitcher has a labral tear include a pop in the shoulder accompanied by a loss of velocity.

Interestingly, there is evidence that this injury is quite common, even in "healthy" or asymptomatic athletes (meaning the athlete does not report any problems). A study by Miniaci et al.(1) noted that most professional baseball pitchers had abnormal changes in the labrum without any pain. Connor et al.(2) reached a similar conclusion about the rotator cuff in athletes. The same can be found in the general population.

Left unchecked, the injury can cause chronic degenerative changes and a subsequent replacement of the shoulder. However, long-term effects are beyond the scope of this article. We are exclusively looking at athletes who play with torn labrums.

A great example is Drew Brees. During his 2006 season, he suffered a full 360-degree labral tear with a small rotator cuff tear. After extensive surgery and months of grueling rehab, he was able to return to elite status—albeit with a reduced contract our of fear that he would not perform as he was capable. Fortunately for Brees, things turned out well for him. (Watch how Brees build his shoulder strength.)

Ed Reed played through a labral tear and didn't even reveal which shoulder was affected. He remains one of the most feared safeties in the NFL, showing that athletes can adapt and continue to play at a high level. Unfortunately, he is at risk for further injury in the future and this approach is not recommended by any medical professional or STACK.

In order to prevent damage to your labrum, it's of the utmost importance to adjust your routine to account for the instability. A critical step to preventing further injury is to warm up your shoulders properly.


The muscles that surround the shoulder, including the four rotator cuff muscles, support the joint. It is critical to warm up these muscles before activity to ensure they are active and prepared to withstand the forces of competition.

Mobility is not of primary concern, but it should be monitored and addressed during the warm-up. Perform exercises that do not cause any pain or popping sensation. Also, continue to develop mobility in your neck and upper back.

The final piece of your warm-up should be self-myofascial release exercises with foam rollers or a tennis pall. Focus on the delts, upper chest, biceps and upper back.

Shoulder-Focused Warm-Up

If you believe you have a labral injury, see your orthopaedic surgeon for further analysis. Yes, you can play with a minor injury, but a significant tear must be addressed or you may cause further damage to your shoulder.


(1) Miniaci, et al., "Magnetic resonance imaging of the shoulder in asymptomatic professional baseball pitchers." American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2001 Jan-Feb; 30(1):66-73

(2) Connor, PM, et al., "Magentic resonance imaging of the asymptomatic shoulder of overhead athletes: a 5-year follow-up study." American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2003 Sep-Oct; 31(5):724-7

Mo Skelton
- Mo Skelton is a physical therapist at McCurtain Memorial Hospital (Idabel, Okla.) and is the founder of F.A.S.T. Sports Performance. He also serves as...
Mo Skelton
- Mo Skelton is a physical therapist at McCurtain Memorial Hospital (Idabel, Okla.) and is the founder of F.A.S.T. Sports Performance. He also serves as...
Must See
Derrick Rose Explains How He Stays Positive
Views: 5,971,757
RGIII Talks About His Legacy
Views: 25,405,430
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 4,837,407

Featured Videos

A Day in the Life of NBA D-League Star Seth Curry Views: 68,738
Kevin Love's Cone Hop Basketball Shooting Drill Views: 8,003
Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 2: Laying the Groundwork Views: 131,367
Load More


STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers


Latest issues of STACK Magazine


Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice


Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes


Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Perfect Dwyane Wade's Signature Euro Step
Views: 1,308,758
What Ryan Hall Eats for Breakfast
Views: 795,255
STACK Fitness Weekly: How To Do a Muscle-Up
Views: 778,651
Greg Nixon's Hill Training Program
Views: 705,761
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,561,460

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Predicting the Impact of DeMarco Murray's Hand Injury

The Future of Sports Injury Rehabilitation

Why Strengthening This Muscle May Fix Knee Pain

How to Treat Piriformis Syndrome

Connective Tissue: The Key to Preventing ACL Injuries

6 Steps for Recovering From a Season-Ending Injury

6 Simple Tips to Prevent Knee Injuries

4 Strategies to Prevent Tommy John Surgery

Bulletproof Your Body with 5 Easy Injury Prevention Exercises

5 Exercises to Prevent ACL Tears

The Secret Weapon Powering Stephen Curry's Resurgence

How to Train With Running Blisters

5 Bodyweight Exercises to Prevent Baseball Injuries

5 Tips to Intelligently Train Through Lower Back Pain

5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Muscle Injuries

Achilles Tendon Ruptures: Prevention and Recovery

6 Ways to Prevent Common Sports Injuries

Outsmart Injury With These 4 Predictive Tests

3 Ways to Prevent the Most Common Hockey Injury

7 Ways to Fix Back Pain

3 Steps to Prevent Soccer ACL Injuries

Sports Hernias: What You Need to Know

Coaches: Prevent Injuries With the Recovery Management Tool

How to Keep Your Feet Healthy On and Off the Field

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Hamstring-Focused Workout

Eliminate Elbow Pain with These 3 Methods

4 Sports Massage Techniques to Relieve Tight Muscles

Tips for Working Out With a Hand or Arm Injury

Megan Rapinoe

10 Ways to Fix Back Pain

What You Need to Know About Tiger Woods' Back Injury

8 of the Most Ridiculous Off-Field Athlete Injuries of All Time

The 8 Most Dangerous Exercises for Your Shoulders

Avoid Low-Back Pain With These 7 In-Season Exercises

STUDY: Imaginary Exercise Helps You Recover Faster From Injury

Evan Gattis's Protection-Enhanced Catcher's Helmet

How to Prevent Injuries With 3 Yoga Poses

Pectoral Tendon Ruptures and Injury Prevention

How to Prevent Baseball Injuries During the Off-Season

Quarterbacks: 4 Tips to Keep Your Throwing Shoulder Healthy

2 Ways to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

Basketball Players: Prevent Ankle Sprains With These 3 Exercises

Impressive Advances in ACL Rehab