Stingers and Burners

This is a common condition in American Football and other contact sports, caused by nerve compression from impact to the neck and shoulder area. This can cause a stinging or burning sensation to spread from the shoulder, down the arm, as far as the hand.

Burners and stingers are caused by injury to the brachial plexus. This is a group or nerves which exit the spinal cord at the base of the neck and pass down the arm to supply the arm muscles. Injury usually occurs when the head is forced to the side, such as during a tackle or a fall onto the shoulder or head.

Symptoms of Stingers and Burners

  • A burning or electric shock sensation from the neck to the hand.
  • This occurs after compression or impact to the neck.
  • The sensation usually last only seconds or a minute or two.
  • On rare occasions the symptoms are much longer lasting.
  • A warm feeling is sometimes described in the arm.
  • There may be some weakness or numbness after the initial pain has subsided.

Stingers and Burners Treatment

  • Stop play and training involving physical contact until all pain, numbness or weakness has subsided.
  • If symptoms persist for longer than 2 days, visit a Doctor.
  • Usually an examination and discussion of the injury is all that is needed for a diagnosis.
  • Where symptoms are more long-lasting or severe, MRI, CT scans or nerve conduction studies may be used.
  • For those with recurrent stingers or burners, elevated shoulder pads or a neck roll may be recommended to prevent over stretching and impact to the area.