The Prevalence and Management of Stingers in College and Professional Collision Athletes

Daniel R. Bowles, Jose A. Canseco, Tyler D. Alexander, Gregory D. Schroeder, Andrew C. Hecht, Alexander R. Vaccaro

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Purpose of Review: Particularly common in collision sports such as American football or rugby, stingers are a traumatic transient neuropraxia of a cervical nerve root(s) or brachial plexus that may last anywhere from minutes to hours. This review summarizes the knowledge on the diagnosis and management of stingers in college and professional collision athletes by providing an overview of their epidemiology and pathophysiology, followed by a discussion on current treatment guidelines and return-to-play recommendations. Recent Findings: Despite modifications to tackling technique, increasing awareness, and various equipment options, American football continues to have a high rate of cervical spine injuries, the majority of which occur in preseason and regular season competition settings. The incidence of stingers has slowly increased among collision athletes, and nearly half of all players report sustaining at least one stinger in their career. Recent studies have shown certain anatomical changes in the cervical spine are related to acute and reoccurring stingers. Most players who experience stingers do not miss practices or games. Summary: Despite their prevalence, literature highlighting the impact of stingers on college and professional collision athletes is limited. Advances in imaging modalities and novel radiographic parameters have provided tools for screening athletes and can guide return-to-play decisions. Future research regarding appropriate screening practices for athletes with reoccurring stingers, use of protective equipment, and rehabilitation strategies are needed to identify predisposing factors, mitigate the risk of injury, and restore full functional strength and ability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-662
Number of pages12
JournalCurrent Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Brachial plexopathy
  • Burner
  • Return-to-play
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Sport injuries
  • Stinger
  • Team physician


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