What is a stinger injury?

Doug N. Cutter, MD
Sports Medicine
One injury that often occurs in football is a stinger injury (brachial plexus stretch injury). In this video, I will describe the symptoms of a stinger injury and recovery time needed.
A stinger is an injury to the system of nerves that supplies the upper body with strength and the sense of touch. This network is called the brachial plexus. Stingers can be caused by stretching or bruising of the brachial plexus. Stingers are sometimes also called burners.

(This answer provided for NATA by the University of Alabama Athletic Training Education Program.)

A "stinger" is an injury of the brachial plexus often seen in football players having sustained a hit forcefully stretching the head and neck. The brachial plexus is a group of nerves that exit the neck to provide sensation and movement to the arms. In the situation of a "stinger," these brachial plexus nerves are stretched beyond their normal limits causing temporary numbness and paralysis of the arm. In severe cases, like motorcycle accidents or high impact hits in football, this stretching injury can result in tearing (avulsion) of the nerves away from the spinal cord causing permanent damage and paralysis of the arm.

Continue Learning about Nerve Injury

Nerve Injury

Pressure or stretching injuries can make fragile nerve fibers break, causing a loss of feeling and improperly working muscles. In a nerve, the fibers are surrounded by insulation. Sometimes the fibers can break while the insulatio...

n remains intact. If a nerve is cut, the nerve fibers and insulation are severed and need surgery to be repaired. New nerve fibers can grow, and the nerve can work again, as long as the insulating cover can be saved. With the cover intact, new nerves can grow about once inch each month, taking about a year for feeling to return. You might have a pins-and-needles sensation in the meantime.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.