Last Updated on Aug 16, 2014

Causes and Risk Factors of Brachial Plexus Injury

Those taking part in contact sports like football often suffer brachial plexus injury when the nerves get excessively stretched.

The upper part of the brachial plexus often gets damaged where the shoulder is forced down and the neck stretches away from the injured shoulder. The lower nerves become vulnerable when oneís arm is forced above the head.

The causes of brachial plexus injuries may be:

Contact sports: Those taking part in contact sports like football or wrestling often suffer brachial plexus injury when the nerves get excessively stretched during collision with other players.

Obstetric causes: In difficult childbirths, when the infantís shoulders get wedged within the birth canal (shoulder dystocia), the baby is forcibly pulled out. This may damage the brachial plexus, often injuring the upper nerves leading to a condition called Erbís palsy. Total brachial plexus injury may also ensue if the upper and lower nerves get damaged.

Trauma: Auto or motorcycle accidents, falls, animal bites, bullet or knife wounds are all causes of brachial plexus injuries.

Parsonage-Turner syndrome or brachial plexitis: This is a rare condition that causes inflammation of the brachial plexus with no apparent shoulder injury. The exact cause is unknown; the condition often resolves by itself.

Risk Factors

Persons participating in contact sports (esp. football, wrestling), as well as those involved in high speed accidents, are at risk of brachial plexus injuries.

Mothers who are diabetic or obese, those whose ultrasound scans revealed fetal macrosomia (big baby) may face difficult child birth during vaginal delivery (this is not to say that cesarean section is unavoidable. The decision should be made by an Obstetrician/Gynecologist).


  1. Davis, DH.; Onofrio, BM.; MacCarty, CS. (Dec 1978). "Brachial plexus injuries.". Mayo Clin Proc 53 (12): 799-807.
  2. Narakas, A.O. "The Treatment of Brachial Plexus Injuries." International Orthopaedics, June 1985. Web. 28 Jan. 2013.
  3. Lorei, MP.; Hershman, EB. (Aug 1993). "Peripheral nerve injuries in athletes. Treatment and prevention.". Sports Med 16 (2): 130-47.

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