Shocking Burners and Stingers

Posted October 6th, 2017

Burners, also called stingers, are injuries that occur when nerves in the neck
and shoulder are stretched or compressed after impact during contact or
collision sports. They are named for the burning or stinging pain that
spreads from the shoulder to the hand. A burner can feel like an electric
shock or lightning bolt down the arm. Usually burners are temporary and
symptoms quickly go away.

Nerves are like electrical cables that travel through the spinal canal carrying
messages between the brain and muscles. The brachial plexus is a network
of nerves that branch out of the spinal canal at the neck and provide feeling
and movement to the arm. When the head is forcefully pushed sideways
and down, the neck bends and pinches the surrounding nerves, possibly
injuring the brachial plexus and causing a burner.

Athletes who engage in contact sports are more likely to suffer a burner,
Burners in football are extremely common, with over 50% of all athletes
reporting at least one episode occurring over the span of their career and
some with repeated episodes. They are common in those who participate
in wrestling, hockey, lacrosse, and diving. A small spinal canal, spinal
stenosis, may put an athlete at greater risk for a burner.

The most common symptoms of a burner include:

  • A burning or electric shock sensation
  • Arm numbness and weakness immediately following the injury
  • A warm sensation

Any athlete with a burner should be examined by a DOC orthopedic
specialist and should not return to practice and play until the physician has
determined that the athlete has full sensation, strength and neck motion.
The main treatment for a burner is rest until the symptoms completely go
away. DOC may recommend working with an athletic trainer or physical
therapist to regain strength and motion.

The best way to prevent a burner or stinger is for athletes to wear
protective gear, use proper tackling technique, and strengthen neck, back
and shoulder muscles.


Leave a Reply

Direct Orthopedic Care, Specialist Skills Without the High ER Bill!