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Brachial Plexus Injury in Sports Medicine Treatment & Management

  • Author: Thomas H Trojian, MD; Chief Editor: Sherwin SW Ho, MD  more...
Updated: Nov 26, 2014

Acute Phase

Rehabilitation Program

Physical Therapy

At onset of injury, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), early mobilization, and moist heat packs are the favorable methods of treatment for acute injuries. In the subacute phase, a gradual progression from ROM activity to cervical and shoulder muscle strengthening is recommended.

Medical Issues/Complications

If symptoms persist (eg, persistent weakness, chronic neurapraxia) regardless of therapy, further consideration for additional imaging and referral should be undertaken.

Surgical Intervention

Surgical intervention is rarely needed, is injury-specific, and should be directed by a neurosurgical or orthopedic spine surgeon.


Neurosurgery spine/orthopedic spine

Other Treatment

Manipulation is not recommended as a first line intervention, but it may be a helpful adjunct after full medical assessment has been completed.


Recovery Phase

Rehabilitation Program

Physical Therapy

In the recovery phase, cervical muscle strengthening and conditioning should be continued. Strength-training programs are used to fully recover the strength that the athlete had prior to the injury. Training should be focused on muscles supporting the injured brachial plexus nerve, such as the shoulders and the surrounding cervical spine region. The neck also should be protected (eg, use of cervical neck rolls, cervical pillows) until strength is regained.


If needed, continue follow-up care with a neurologist, and/or spine specialist.


Maintenance Phase

Rehabilitation Program

Physical Therapy

Continued maintenance of cervical muscle strength, conditioning, and protection is recommended.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Thomas H Trojian, MD Professor of Family Medicine, Sports Medicine Fellowship Director, Department of Family Medicine, Associate Chief, Division of Sports Medicine, Drexel University College of Medicine; Lead Team Physician, Drexel Athletics

Thomas H Trojian, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Sports Medicine, American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, Society of Teachers of Family Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Melissa Mascaro, MD Fellow in Sports Medicine, University of Connecticut School of Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Chief Editor

Sherwin SW Ho, MD Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, Section of Orthopedic Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Chicago Division of the Biological Sciences, The Pritzker School of Medicine

Sherwin SW Ho, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Arthroscopy Association of North America, Herodicus Society, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine

Disclosure: Received consulting fee from Biomet, Inc. for speaking and teaching; Received grant/research funds from Smith and Nephew for fellowship funding; Received grant/research funds from DJ Ortho for course funding; Received grant/research funds from Athletico Physical Therapy for course, research funding; Received royalty from Biomet, Inc. for consulting.

Additional Contributors

Janos P Ertl, MD Assistant Professor, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine; Chief of Orthopedic Surgery, Wishard Hospital; Chief, Sports Medicine and Arthroscopy, Indiana University School of Medicine

Janos P Ertl, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Orthopaedic Association, Hungarian Medical Association of America, Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


The authors and editors of Medscape Reference gratefully acknowledge the contributions of previous authors Federico E. Vaca, MD, FACEP, and Oniel Young, BS, to the development and writing of this article.

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