Brachial Plexus Injury: When Is it Safe to Return to Sports?

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There are an estimated 50 million kids playing competitive youth sports in the U.S. A brachial plexus injury, also known as a stinger or burner, is an injury that commonly occurs in athletes who play sports such as those listed on the right.

A brachial plexus injury is the result of damage to the nerves linking the spine to the shoulder and is often caused by stretching the head away from the arm following a shoulder trauma. It’s important to know when to seek treatment for this injury and when it’s safe for a young athlete to return to play.

Symptoms include:

  • Numbness and/or tingling down the arm
  • Burning
  • Decreased strength
  • Stinging
  • Changes in sensation

These symptoms may be obvious or subtle, lasting a few seconds or a few minutes, and can last much longer in some cases. While symptoms are present, watch for possible signs of a concussion.

What to do if a brachial plexus injury is suspected:

  1. Do not allow your child to return to play until strength and function on the injured side matches that of the non-injured side.
  2. If your child experiences pain or limited motion when raising the injured arm over his head or moving his elbow, encourage him to rest.
  3. If symptoms persist, take your child to his doctor or a pediatric sports medicine physician.

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