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Burners and Stingers Syndrome in Children

What is burners and stingers syndrome in children?

Burners and stingers syndrome is a type of sports injury. It is a pain in the shoulder or neck that causes a burning or stinging feeling down an arm to the hand. It happens when nerves in the neck are stretched or squeezed. The pain often goes away in minutes, hours, or days after an injury. But it can happen again and again.

What causes burners and stingers syndrome in a child?

The condition can occur while your child is playing contact sports such as football, wrestling, and hockey. It can also happen during gymnastics. The most common cause is a child falling or taking a hit to the neck or shoulder. This pushes the head sharply to the side and down. This movement:

  • Overly stretches or pinches a bundle (cord) of nerves between the neck and shoulder, called the brachial plexus. All of the nerves that go to the arm pass through the brachial plexus. The pain shoots through these nerves down the arm.
  • Can also affect nerves from the spinal cord in the neck. When any of these nerves are damaged, it causes a burning or electric shock feeling in the arm and hand.

 

Which children are at risk for burners and stingers syndrome?

A child is more at risk for burners and stingers syndrome if he or she:

  • Plays contact sports. Taking a direct hit in contact sports such as football, wrestling, and hockey can cause this kind of injury. Children who are linebackers or defensive backs in football are more at risk.
  • Has spinal stenosis. Children who are born with a narrower spinal canal are at greater risk for burners and stingers.

What are the symptoms of burners and stingers syndrome in a child?

Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. They can include:

  • Arm has a burning or electric shock feeling
  • Arm feels numb
  • Arm is weak
  • Arm feels warm

Symptoms often go away after a few minutes. Some children’s symptoms last for hours or days after an injury. In severe cases, symptoms may last for weeks or months. Usually only one arm is affected.

The symptoms of burners and stingers syndrome can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is burners and stingers syndrome diagnosed in a child?

The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she will also ask about recent sports or injuries. He or she will give your child a physical exam. In some cases, a child may have an X-ray or other tests. This is to look for other problems in the area that may be causing similar symptoms.

 

How is burners and stingers syndrome treated in a child?

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.                                         

The condition usually goes away on its own in a few days. Your child should not take part in any practice sessions or games until all symptoms are gone. Your child should not play sports if any symptoms come back.

Treatment may include working with a physical therapist. A physical therapist is a provider who helps someone recover from an injury. A therapist can help your child rebuild strength in the neck and shoulder muscles. Your healthcare provider can help you decide if a therapist is needed.

After injury, your child should wear special protective padding around the shoulders and neck. This may include:

  • Neck roll
  • Raised shoulder pads
  • “Cowboy collar” on top of shoulder pads

Talk with your child’s sports coach about making sure your child has padding to provide protection. Ask your child’s provider about any follow-up care your child will need after returning to sports.

 

What are the possible complications of burners and stingers syndrome in a child?

Most young athletes will not have ongoing health problems because of an episode of burners and stingers. A small number of children who have repeat burners and stingers may need to visit a healthcare provider for a more detailed look at the problem.

 

How can I help prevent burners and stingers syndrome in my child?

You can help prevent a sports injury in your child by:

  • Having your child be in good physical shape for playing sports. He or she should have a preseason physical. You may want to ask your child’s healthcare provider about the sports physical exam (called the Preparticipation Physical Evaluation or PPE).
  • Having your child wear protective padding and gear for every practice and game.
  • Checking that protective padding and gear is in good condition before every practice and game.
  • Having your child do warm-up and cool down exercises before and after practice or a game.
  • Teaching your child to know and pay attention to signs of injury. This will help them take a break before pain gets worse.
  • Putting emphasis on good sportsmanship so that athletes don't get hurt because of personal conflicts. 

 

When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?

Call the healthcare provider if your child has:

  • Weakness that lasts more than 3 days
  • Neck pain
  • Symptoms in both arms
  • Repeated injury

 

Key points about burners and stingers syndrome in children

  • Burners and stingers syndrome is a type of sports injury. It is a pain in the shoulder or neck that causes a burning or stinging feeling down an arm to the hand.
  • The pain often goes away in minutes, hours, or days after an injury. But it can happen again and again.
  • The condition can occur while playing contact sports such as football, wrestling, and hockey. It can also happen during gymnastics.
  • The most common cause is a child falling or taking a hit to the neck or shoulder. This pushes the head sharply to the side and down. This movement overly stretches a bundle (cord) of nerves between the neck and shoulder called the brachial plexus. Or it affects nerves from the spinal cord in the neck.
  • A child is more at risk for burners and stingers syndrome if he or she plays contact sports or has spinal stenosis.
  • Symptoms often go away after a few minutes. Some children’s symptoms last for hours or days after an injury. In severe cases, symptoms may last for weeks or months

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.
  • Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Cunningham, Louise, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Joseph, Thomas N, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Moloney, Amanda Jane (Johns), PA-C, MPAS, BBA
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2016
© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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