What is a Stinger Injury Explained

rugby-spear-tackle.300x325Neck injuries happen in the rugby game especially trapped nerve pain conditions. There is a trapped nerve injury that can happen called a “stinger“. A stinger injury is when damage has occurred to the major nerves leaving the neck going down into the left or right arm. Stingers are also called a “burner“.

If you saw the dangerous spear tackle Welsh rugby captain, Sam Warburton, did in the Rugby World Cup 2011 semi-final today on French player,Vincent Clerc, you can see one way a stinger injury to the neck can happen in rugby. So what nerves in the neck get trapped and what can you do to help a stinger injury.

Below I will show you the dangerous rugby spear tackle video, the anatomy, cause, symptoms and how to treat a stinger injury in your neck and arm. At the bottom I also found a leaflet you can print maybe as a coach from the North American Spine Society for an injured player.

Stinger Injury From Playing Rugby

As you can see in the video above the spear tackle in rugby is dangerous as the South African player landed heavily from a height onto the back of his neck. This would have caused a whiplash effect on the neck and in this case can create excessive neck chin to chest movement.

Professional rugby player, Brian Lima, was nicknamed “The Chiropractor” for his hard tackles. It is said when Brian Lima rugby tackled your he hit you so hard it would click all your bones like going to a chiropractor. Don’t worry seeing a chiropractor for the first time wouldn’t be like getting rugby tackled from Brian Lima 🙂

This video clip is the famous Brian Lima tackle on South African springbok rugby player Derrick Hougaard in the South Africa vs Samoa game in the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

You can see how easy it is for a rugby player to hurt the nerves coming off from the side of their neck during a tackle too.

Anatomy of Stinger Injury

The nerves damaged in a stinger injury are the brachial plexus group of the neck. More specifically than the group being trapped you will get one or two nerve roots leaving the neck injured. So this could be a C5, C6 or C7 trapped nerve pain going into the arm.

Causes of a Stinger

The stinger injury to the neck tends to occur when the head is pushed to one side and the shoulder is dropped down the other way. This creates an overstretched effect on the spinal nerves exiting the cervical spine.

In severe cases these nerves can rupture leaving permanent nerve damage in arm.

Stinger or burners tend to be sporting injuries.

An example when this occurs is when a rugby player goes in for a tackle, NFL football players, neck crank moves in mixed martial arts

A stinger can happen say falling off a bicycle like on the road or mountain. Also have a motorbike accident where the shoulder hits the ground first and the head is bent to the side with the helmet.

Symptoms of a Stinger Injury

Here are some of the symptoms a person who has had a stinger trapped nerve injury might say:

  1. It sent a stinging pain down my arm to my fingers,
  2. It was a burning feeling in my neck down my shoulder-blade into my upper arm,
  3. I felt an electric shock run from my neck down into my fingers,
  4. I got pins and needles feeling in my forearm or fingers,
  5. I have a pain underneath my shoulder-blade into the back of my arm,
  6. I have lost some of the strength in my arm,
  7. I can’t lift my arm properly,
  8. I feel very weak trying to do a push-up.

These are just some symptoms someone with a possible stinger injury might say to their doctor.

How to Treat a Stinger

How to treat a stinger condition depends on the severity of damage to the nerve(s).

Just like a trapped nerve in your neck problem these stinger pain episodes can last awhile whilst the nerves heals. A stinger/burner can be very short-lived thankfully as well as the overstretched on the nerve didn’t create long-term damage.

So time is one healer. Treating the stinger like a trapped nerve is the best option.

If the injury was sports related like a bad rugby tackle or scrum then no sport is the start. Repeating the risk of stretching the nerves in your neck won’t let them heal.

If there is pain maybe specific nerve pain medication is needed.

So stingers or burners can happen. They are because of a overstretch of the nerves leaving the neck going into the arms. The injury can be short-lived and mild to a chronic long-term damage one.

Have you had a stinger injury? How long did it take you to recover and did you do something specific to help treat your injury? Let me know in a comment below.

Here is a patient information leaflet that gives you some more information on stinger injuries.

[gview file=”http://www.spine.org/documents/stingers_2006.pdf”]