In this post I will be explaining what occurs and what is felt with a stinger injury and I will also give some advice on what to expect with regards to recovery.
“Stingers”, also known as “Burners”, occur when a persons neck is taken too far to one side too quickly whilst at the same time the shoulder is depressed downwards too far and too quickly also. The usual mechanism is as a result of a tackle during Rugby or American Football, the resulting pain is described as stinging or burning sensation. The reasons for these symptoms are because the nerves exiting the neck that innervate the arm (via the “brachial plexus”) are stretched during the tackle and therefore injured.
The type of pain that is felt is regarded as a sharp shooting neurological type pain with regions of stinging and burning locally and often distally down the arm. The pain location can vary, though the most commonly affected area is that which is innervated by the C5 nerve as this is the nerve where most of the over stretching is likely to occur as the shoulder is depressed too far downwards. As you can see in the picture below, the C5 nerve root is the highest exiting nerve that innervates the arm from the neck region.
Look at the yellow nerves exiting the spine in to the arm in this picture, C5 is the highest level.
The regions of skin innervated by C5, C6, C7, C8 and T1 are shown here in this picture, when suffering from a Rugby stinger you may feel discomfort along one or more of these regions with C5 being the most likely.
The muscles that you may find weak as a result of a stinger playing Rugby are most likely to be those innervated by C5 and then decreasing in likelihood C6, C7, C8, T1.
As you can see the main muscles innervated by C5 and C6 are those surrounding the shoulder girdle, therefore expect dysfunction to occur in this region. The rate of healing for a nerve is very slow so make sure you are patient and perform rehab sensibly. I would recommend seeing a specialist (e.g chiropractor) for advice and guidance throughout this process as too little or too much rehab or treatment at the wrong time could decrease your recovery rate and prolong your return to action.