When Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Cliff Avril went to tackle Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Jacoby Brissett on October 1st, he was just trying to stop a play. But what he may have put an end to is his career – at least that’s what coach Pete Carroll is hinting at. When Avil took Brissett down, the quarterback inadvertently kicked the defensive player in the chin, causing a neck injury that has left Avril with no feeling in his arms or his hands.
The injury is being referred to as a “serious stinger”, a term that describes a cervical spine injury that injures the nerves of the neck and shoulder and causes a burning or stinging feeling. These injuries are also known as brachial plexus injuries, and they are common in football players. They are generally caused by a downward or backward force against the shoulder and impact a group of nerves in the cervical spine from C5 to C8-T1, which leave the spinal cord and go through the neck, under the collarbone and armpit, and then down the arm. As a cervical spine specialist in NJ, we see and treat many of these and similar injuries.
Speaking of Avril’s injury, the former head doctor of the NFL, David Chao, explains that in order for Avril to regain full normal feeling, range of motion and strength, he will need many weeks to heal. Failing to give himself the time that he needs for a full recovery risks far greater damage. Chao said:
Continued nerve symptoms portend a prolonged absence. If numbness continues, surgery becomes an option. If his symptoms progress to weakness, he would need immediate surgery. Numbness could be from a prolonged stinger, but given the neck announcement it is more likely related to nerve issue related to a cervical disc. The good news is that even though he was seen testing both hands and arms on the field, that likely was for a side-to-side comparison. Any symptoms on both arms would have an even worse prognosis.
As Dr. Chao indicated, the possibility exists that Avril’s symptoms are arising from a cervical ruptured disc in the upper spine. This can lead to the numbness in the arms and hands that is being reported, as well as neck pain radiation to the shoulders. A cervical ruptured disc would mean that one or more of the spinal discs between Avril’s cervical vertebrae were torn by the kick, pushing its nucleus into the spinal canal or impinging on the nerve roots. If this is the case, rest would be the first recommendation, followed by conservative treatments such as stretching and massage therapy, but likely leading to the need for surgery.
Stingers and cervical disc problems do not only afflict star athletes: they can happen to people in their every day lives. If you are suffering from weakness or numbness in your arms or neck or shoulder pain, your first step should be to make an appointment with a cervical spine specialist in New Jersey who can diagnose your problem and put you back on the road to good health. Contact our office today to set up a consultation.