Updated: May 16
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that runs from the spine to the shoulder, arm, and hand. When this network of nerves is damaged, it can lead to severe pain, weakness, and loss of sensation in the affected limb. In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for brachial plexus injury, with references to athletes, workers, and car accident victims.
Causes of Brachial Plexus Injury
Brachial plexus injury can occur due to a variety of reasons, including:
Sports injuries, particularly in contact sports such as football, hockey, or wrestling.
Work-related injuries, particularly in occupations that require repetitive arm or shoulder movements, such as construction, plumbing, or assembly line work.
Car accidents or other traumatic events that result in a sudden impact to the shoulder or arm.
Symptoms of Brachial Plexus Injury
The symptoms of brachial plexus injury can vary depending on the severity of the injury. Some common symptoms include:
Pain, numbness, or weakness in the affected arm or hand.
Loss of sensation or tingling in the fingers or hand.
Weakness or paralysis of the shoulder, arm, or hand.
Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as gripping objects or buttoning clothes.
In severe cases, complete loss of function of the affected limb.
Treatment Options for Brachial Plexus Injury
The treatment options for brachial plexus injury depend on the severity of the injury and the extent of the nerve damage. Some common treatment options include:
Physical therapy can help improve range of motion, strengthen muscles, and reduce pain and inflammation. This type of therapy is particularly effective in cases of mild to moderate injury.
Medications: Over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce pain and inflammation. Prescription medications such as muscle relaxants or nerve blockers may also be used in more severe cases.
Surgery: In cases of severe nerve damage or complete loss of function, surgery may be necessary to repair or replace the damaged nerve.
Type of Physicians to See After a Brachial Plexus Injury
After a brachial plexus injury, it is important to see a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of nerve injuries. A neurologist or a neurosurgeon may be recommended to diagnose the extent of the injury and determine the best course of treatment. A physical therapist or occupational therapist can also be helpful in developing a rehabilitation plan to help restore function and improve quality of life.
Here are some notable athletes who have suffered from a brachial plexus injury:
Eric Wood, former NFL center for the Buffalo Bills, suffered a career-ending brachial plexus injury in 2017.
Jake Butt, former NFL tight end for the Denver Broncos, suffered a brachial plexus injury during a game in 2018.
Nathan Peterman, former NFL quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, suffered a brachial plexus injury during a game in 2017.
Ryan Shazier, former NFL linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, suffered a brachial plexus injury during a game in 2017.
Bryan Price, former MLB pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, suffered a brachial plexus injury during a game in 2014.
Travis Lulay, former CFL quarterback for the BC Lions, suffered a brachial plexus injury during a game in 2012.
It's important to note that brachial plexus injuries can happen to anyone, not just athletes. Workers in certain occupations and car accident victims are also at risk for this type of injury.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2020). Brachial Plexus Injuries Information Page. Retrieved from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Brachial-Plexus-Injuries-Information-Page.
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. (2019). Brachial Plexus Injury. Retrieved from https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/brachial-plexus-injury.
Mayo Clinic. (2021). Brachial Plexus Injury. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/brachial-plexus-injury/symptoms-causes/syc-20350217.
Cleveland Clinic. (2021). Brachial Plexus Injuries. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15236-brachial-plexus-injuries.
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New York Pain Doctors: www.newyorpaindoctors.com (NYPMD)