Stingers and Burners

Stingers and Burners

This is a common condition in American Football and other contact sports, caused by nerve compression from impacts 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.

Stingers and burners 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. The injury usually occurs when the head is forced to the side, such as during a tackle or a fall onto the shoulder or head.


A burning or electric shock sensation may be felt from the neck to the hand which occurs after compression or a traumatic impact to the neck. The sensation usually lasts only seconds or a minute or two although on rare occasions it can be much longer. The patient may describe a warm feeling in the arm and 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 are 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.