The burner or stinger syndrome is a common injury experienced by football players or other athletes involved in collision or contact. While players usually recover quickly, some patients may have a more serious condition that can require removal from play.


Sports affected:

(1) football, most often in players who block or tackle frequently (defensive backs, tight ends, running backs, defensive linesmen)

(2) weight lifting

(3) wrestling

(4) basketball

(5) hockey

(6) rugby


General features:

(1) burning or stinging in one upper extremity

(2) numbness and tingling may occur

(3) pain may radiate into the arm or hand, which is usually transient but which can be persistent

(4) sense of heaviness or feeling “dead”

(5) muscle weakness

(6) transient dysesthesia or paresthesias


The player may be seen:

(1) to have one arm hanging at the side

(2) to shake the involved extremity and

(3) to rub and flex the affected arm


Recovery is typically within a minute or two, but some patients may have a prolonged syndrome with delayed recovery.


Signs of a potentially more serious lesion:

(1) electric shock on flexion of neck (Lhermitte’s sign = large fragment of intervertebral disc in spinal canal impinging on cord)

(2) head tilted to one side, with interscapular pain and pain made worse by extending neck while tilting towards the painful side (acutely ruptured disc)

(3) quadraplegia (transient or permanent)


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