Severe Brachial Plexus Injuries in American Football

Charles A Daly, S Houston Payne, John G Seiler
Orthopedics 2016 November 1, 39 (6): e1188-e1192
This article reports a series of severe permanent brachial plexus injuries in American football players. The authors describe the mechanisms of injury and outcomes from a more contemporary treatment approach in the form of nerve transfer tailored to the specific injuries sustained. Three cases of nerve transfer for brachial plexus injury in American football players are discussed in detail. Two of these patients regained functional use of the extremity, but 1 patient with a particularly severe injury did not regain significant function. Brachial plexus injuries are found along a spectrum of brachial plexus stretch or contusion that includes the injuries known as "stingers." Early identification of these severe brachial plexus injuries allows for optimal outcomes with timely treatment. Diagnosis of the place of a given injury along this spectrum is difficult and requires a combination of imaging studies, nerve conduction studies, and close monitoring of physical examination findings over time. Although certain patients may be at higher risk for stingers, there is no evidence to suggest that this correlates with a higher risk of severe brachial plexus injury. Unfortunately, no equipment or strengthening program has been shown to provide a protective effect against these severe injuries. Patients with more severe injuries likely have less likelihood of functional recovery. In these patients, nerve transfer for brachial plexus injury offers the best possibility of meaningful recovery without significant morbidity. [ Orthopedics. 2016; 39(6):e1188-e1192.].

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