Brachial Plexus Injury in Sports Medicine Follow-up

Updated: Jun 19, 2017
  • Author: Thomas H Trojian, MD; Chief Editor: Sherwin SW Ho, MD  more...
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Follow-up

Return to Play

Clinical findings are key in determining an athlete's possibility of returning to play. Full recovery of affected muscles must be determined to prevent further injury and recurrence of burner syndrome. Athletes in contact sports involving the neck should be able to support their weight at the neck leaning at a 45° angle. If this is possible without symptoms, then return to play is highly probable.

Some athletes may have very mild residual asymmetry in strength as a result of the initial injury. Close attention should be paid to the degree of disparity in extremity strength as the athlete returns to participation. Serial EMGs may be of little utility in this setting, as EMG changes can persist for months to years. However, in the setting of an acute change in strength pattern, reassessment may be warranted.

Recurrent stingers warrant assessment of equipment, inclusion of a cowboy collar for football players, and the coach to assess tackling technique.

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Complications

Chronic burner syndrome

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Prevention

Use protective equipment (eg, neck rolls, air cushions) in football players. Proper technique in contact sports (eg, tackling) is necessary, and improper methods (eg, spearing) should be discouraged. Coaches and referees involved with heavy contact sports also should discourage unnecessary tackling and contact. Cervical and paracervical muscular strengthening and conditioning are recommended.

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Prognosis

Prognosis is good, yet some possibility of chronic symptoms may remain.

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Education

For excellent patient education resources, visit eMedicineHealth's First Aid and Injuries Center. Also, see eMedicineHealth's patient education articles Shoulder and Neck Pain and Neck Strain.

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