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Whiplash, Burner or Stingers - Common Sports Neck Injuries

Lucy Gilson, Physiotherapist, LightSpeed Physiotherapy Inc.

Toronto Sun Feb. 4, 07

Neck injuries can be very serious or relatively minor.  Most people associate neck injuries with car accidents.  However, these types of injuries may occur while participating in sports or recreational activities - including football, skiing, martial arts, and even roller coasters. Recently, the University of Guelph found that whiplash often occurs when hockey players have a concussion, yet the whiplash injury is frequently overlooked.   

Whiplash occurs when there is a sudden jerking of the head backwards and forwards resulting in an injury to the soft tissues in the neck. The ligaments in the neck may be stretched or even torn.  Occasionally, fractures of the vertebrae may also be involved.  The force can be so strong that the head snaps forward and causes a secondary injury when the jaw hits the chest; this is known as TMJ (Temporal Mandibular Joint Disorder).

Whiplash pain may begin immediately or within a few days. Symptoms include neck stiffness, headache, dizziness or unusual sensations.

A Burner or Stinger is an injury of the nerves between the neck and shoulder.  There are three actions that may result in a stinger: 1) the shoulder is pushed down while the head is forced to the opposite side; 2) the head is moved quickly to one side; 3) the collarbone is hit directly. 

Stingers usually last a few minutes, but may take a few days or weeks to heal. A stinging or burning feeling between the neck, shoulders and occasionally the arm is felt.  A numb, weak and tingly sensation of the shoulder or arm may occur.  Stingers should only be felt in one arm.  It can be a sign of a more serious injury if both arms or shoulders are involved.

If a neck injury is suspected, a spinal injury may be present.  Once a spinal or major trauma has been ruled out, then stop all activities that may aggravate the neck injury.  Ice should be applied during the first 48-72 hours to control pain and inflammation. Icing should be limited to 10-15 minutes.  Trying to “stretch it out” should be avoided since this will cause further injury.

Our neck injury patients recover rapidly when treated with laser therapy.  The sooner a neck injury patient gets treatment, the faster they recover and get back into the game again.