Objectives SLAP (superior labrum anterior and posterior) lesions are a recognised cause of shoulder pain and instability. They can occur following a direct blow, biceps traction and compression injuries, and are commonly seen in overhead athletes. Military personnel are physically active and often subjected to trauma. We assessed the incidence of SLAP lesions within a military population presenting with shoulder symptoms.
Methods A retrospective review, of all shoulder arthroscopies performed by a single surgeon between June 2003 and December 2004 at a district general hospital serving both a military and civilian population, was undertaken. The presentation and incidence of SLAP lesions were recorded for both military and civilian patients.
Results One hundred and seventy eight arthroscopies were performed on 70 (39.3%) military and 108 (60.7%) civilian patients. The average age was 42.3 (range 17-75), 50 females and 128 males were included. Indications for arthroscopy included pain (75.3%), instability (15.7%), pain and instability (7.9%), or “other symptoms” (1.1%). 39 SLAP lesions (22%) were found and grouped according to the Snyder classification – 20.5% type 1, 69.3% type 2, 5.1% type 3, 5.1% type 4. Patients with a history of trauma or symptoms of instability were more likely to have a SLAP lesion (p<0.0001). The incidence of SLAP lesions in the military patients was 38.6% compared to 11.1% in civilian patients (p<0.0001). After allowing for the increased incidence of trauma and instability in the military, SLAP lesions were still more common in the military patients (p<0.001).
Conclusions There is a higher than average incidence of SLAP lesions in military patients compared to civilian patients. They tend to present with a history of trauma, as well as symptoms of pain and instability. Given the high incidence in military personnel, this diagnosis should be considered in military patients presenting with shoulder symptoms, and there should be a low threshold for shoulder arthroscopy.
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