A look at what a stinger or burner injury is and what they can do to the neck and shoulders. We will look at:
Contact sports, like:
This is a very common cervical injury that affects the neck and upper body. This is known as a stinger.
A stinger can also be called a burner and is an injury that happens when the head or neck gets hit to one side, which causes the shoulder to be pulled in the opposite direction.
Stingers/burners often happen at the high school level but can occur at all levels of play.
Stinger/Burner neck injury cause
A stinger is caused by stretching the brachial plexus nerves.
These peripheral nerves that come out of:
- Spinal cord
- Run across the shoulders
- Under the collarbone
- Into the arms
The brachial plexus nerves give the arms their strength and sensation.
When a sideways hit to the head or hit to the shoulder occurs, the nerves can become:
Symptoms of a cervical stinger
This type of sideways collision causes immediate and intense pain, tingling or burning sensations that can run down the arm into the fingers.
Weakness in the affected arm or hand is common.
The weakness, numbness, and tingling sensations can last a few minutes or for a few weeks.
Stinger/burner injury treatment
Fortunately, most stinger injuries heal on their own with rest and relaxation of the neck muscles.
Athletes are placed on the disabled list until symptoms are gone and a doctor has cleared the athlete.
- Ice pack on the neck or shoulders
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Neck strength exercises
Players can return to sport once the pain is gone and they’ve regained:
- Full range of motion
- Normal sensation in neck and arms
Constant or recurring symptoms could indicate a more serious injury.
Cervical x-rays, a CT scan, or MRI could be used to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms.
Can stinger/burner injuries be prevented?
- Strengthening exercises for the neck muscles are an important way for athletes and beginners to help prevent these injuries.
- Using the proper and correct technique in contact sports to avoid spearing/spear tackles and head down tackling.
- Safety equipment, like neck rolls, can help limit the backward movement of the neck.
Players who experience stinger symptoms should immediately report it to their coaches or team/personal physician.
Ignoring or playing through a stinger injury can lead to more severe injuries.
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