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A retrospective study looking at the incidence of ‘stinger' injuries in professional rugby union players
  1. M Cunnane,
  2. M Pratten,
  3. S Loughna
  1. School of Biomedical Sciences, The Medical School, QMC, Nottingham, UK


Brachial plexus injuries commonly occur in athletes participating in contact sports. One such injury, commonly known as ‘stingers' or ‘burners' (US) because of the associated feeling that occurs in the affected upper limb, also results in paraesthesia, weakness and pain. A retrospective study was undertaken examining the incidences of ‘stinger' injuries in Premiership rugby union football players. Data was collected from 152 members of 1st team squads from 5 Premiership clubs via questionnaire designed to examine the frequency, symptoms, and effects of stinger injuries. 72% of players suffered from one or more stinger injury, and the range was from 0 to 20, over the course of the 2009–2010 season. The most common number of stingers was 0, and the average was 2.2 per player. The incidence of stingers was 2.5 times greater in the forwards (positions 1–8) than the backs (7–15), with the most commonly affected position being the 6–8 subgroup (the back row) which had an average of 4.4 stingers per season, the least was numbers 11 and 14 (wingers) suffering on average 0.7 per season. It appears that there is a correlation between the number of stingers sustained and the age of athlete, as well as the number of years playing professionally. The majority of injuries were reported when tackling (78%) and to a lesser extent when rucking (11%). The most commonly complained of symptoms were numbness, pain and reduction in range of movement. The majority (59%) of players reported no days with no/limited training off after the worst stinger in their memory. 95% of players who suffered from a stinger carried on playing without treatment or leaving the field. 75% of stinger injuries occurred during matches, with 4% during training, and 21% of players saying they occurred in both matches and training. In conclusion, stinger injuries do occur with a high frequency in rugby union, with forward positions being more at risk than others.

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