Where Art Thou Mike Jenkins?

Okay folks this needs to be talked about. I don't know why this hasn't been talked about yet, but it's time we bring it out in the open. Where is Mike Jenkins? Jenkins suffered a stinger injury during the first week of camp on August 4th. Since then he has not participated in the team drills, only some individual drills. But honestly, I haven't heard anything about him working out recently at all.

We are now entering his third week with this "injury" and he has missed a lot of time that he really needed this year. I thought Jenkins was going to come back hungry and show that 2009 mentality and swagger we all fell in love with. The first week of camp apparently he was doing that and was off to a great start. Then he suffered the stinger injury.

I am beginning to wonder if there is something deeper going on here. Is the injury more serious than initially reported? Is Mike Jenkins mentally soft now and not eager to get back onto the playing field? What is really going on here? And what are the Cowboys doing to solve this problem if it is more serious of an injury?

Seems like a lot of questions for a basic stinger injury right?

Let us take a deeper dive into the actual nature of what a stinger is.

I found this at the Spine Universe and this is what they had to say.

In the world of contact sports, such as football, hockey, or basketball, a common injury is the stinger. A stinger, sometimes called a burner, is an injury that occurs when the head or neck (cervical spine) is hit to one side, causing the shoulder to be pulled in the opposite direction. While stingers occur most often at the high school level, they can occur at all levels of play.

How does a stinger happen? 
A stinger is caused by a stretching of the brachial plexus nerves. These are peripheral nerves that exit the spinal cord and run across the shoulders, under the collarbone, and into the arms. The brachial plexus nerves are responsible for giving the arms their strength and sensation. As a result of a forcible sideways blow to the head or a blow to the shoulder itself, these nerves may become compressed, stretched, and irritated.

What are the symptoms of a stinger? 
A side collision of this type causes immediate and intense pain, as well as a tingling or burning sensation in the neck that runs down the arm to the fingers. Weakness in the affected arm or hand is also common. The weakness, numbness, or tingling sensations may last as briefly as a few minutes or as long as a few weeks.


How is a stinger treated? 
Most stinger injuries resolve on their own with rest. Athletes are usually removed from the sport until symptoms are gone. Ice packs on the neck or shoulders, anti-inflammatory medications, massage, and neck strengthening exercises are often part of the treatment plan. Players can usually return to their sport once the pain is gone and they have regained full range of motion, strength, and normal sensation in the neck and arms. Persistent or recurrent symptoms may indicate a more serious injury. Neck x-rays, a CT scan, or MRI may be necessary to rule out other serious conditions with similar symptoms.

How can a stinger be prevented? 
Strengthening neck muscles are an important way for athletes to prevent stingers. Using good technique in contact sports and avoiding spearing (head down tackling) is also important. Safety equipment, such as neck rolls that limit backward movement of the neck, may also help.

Most importantly, players who experience symptoms of a stinger should immediately report them to their coaches or team physician, despite the risk of being removed from the game. Ignoring or playing through a stinger can lead to more serious injuries.

Injury to the nerves of the neck and shoulder that cause a burning or stinging feeling are called burners or stingers. Another name for this type of nerve injury is brachial plexus injury. Football players are affected most often. Up to half of all college football players have had at least one burner or stinger. Many of these occurred during high school football. Fortunately, it's not a serious neck injury.

This guide will help you understand

  • what parts of the body are involved
  • how the problem develops
  • how doctors diagnose the condition
  • what treatment options are available




What parts of the body are involved?

The brachial plexus is affected most often by a downward or backward force against the shoulder. A nerve plexus is an area where nerves branch and rejoin. The brachial plexus is a group of nerves in the cervical spine from C5 to C8-T1. This includes the lower half of the cervical nerve roots and the nerve root from the first thoracic vertebra.

The nerves leave the spinal cord, go through the neck, under the clavicle(collar bone) and armpit, and then down the arm.

The brachial plexus begins with five roots that merge or join together to form three trunks. The three trunks are upper (C5-C6), middle (C7), andlower (C8-T1). Each trunk then splits in two, to form six divisions. These divisions then regroup to become three cords (posterior, lateral, and medial).

Finally, there are branches that result in three nerves to the skin and muscles of the arm and hand: the medianulnar, and radial nerves.

Related Document: A Patient's Guide to Cervical Spine Anatomy


What causes this condition?

Burners or stingers are the result of traction or compressive forces on the brachial plexus or cervical nerve roots. The usual mechanism of injury occurs when a direct blow or hard hit to the top of your shoulder pushes it down at the same time your head is forced to the opposite side.

In the process, the brachial plexus between the neck and shoulder gets stretched. The same injury can happen if a downward force hits the collarbone directly. In football, burners or stingers occur most often when you tackle or block another player. This motion overstretches the nerves of the brachial plexus.

It's not clear exactly where in the brachial plexus the damage occurs. Some experts suggest the injury is most likely to be at the level of the trunks, rather than at the nerve root level. The results of other studies show that burners or stingers from compression forces cause nerve root damage while traction injuries result in plexus injuries. A nerve root injury would be much more serious than a burner or stinger from a trunk injury of the brachial plexus.

Other athletes who participate in wrestling, gymnastics, snow skiing, and martial arts can also experience burners or stingers. Some studies suggest that athletes with a narrow cervical canal may be at increased risk for this type of injury.


What does this condition feel like?

A burning or stinging feeling between the neck and shoulder is the hallmark finding in this condition. True neck pain is more likely to be an injury to the neck itself. With burners or stingers, the painful symptoms start above the shoulder and go down the arm and even into the hand.

The shoulder and arm may feel numb or weak. You may feel as if this area is tingling. Weakness may be present at the time of the injury. Some patients report the arm feels and appears to be "dead". This paralysis and other symptoms may be transient or temporary. They may only last a few seconds or minutes. But for some patients, healing takes days or weeks. In rare cases, the damage can be permanent.


How do doctors diagnose this condition?

A careful history and physical exam are needed to diagnose stingers or burners. By assessing areas of weakness, the examiner may be able to tell whether a stretch injury of the brachial plexus has occurred. Nerve function and reflexes are also evaluated. If the physician suspects a cervical spine injury, further testing may be needed.

X-rays, MRI, and electrodiagnostic studies such as an electromyogram (EMG) can help make the final diagnosis. The EMG will confirm a problem, pinpoint the area of damage, and give an idea of how long recovery will take for each individual.


What treatment options are available?

Nonsurgical Treatment

Protecting the neck with a soft collar is the first step in the acute phase of burners or stingers. If the injury occurs on the playing field, the player is placed in a protective collar before being moved off the field. This is worn until X-rays are taken to rule out fracture, dislocation, or other more serious neck injury.

Rest and gentle neck and shoulder range of motion are advised until symptoms resolve. If this does not occur within a few days, then physical therapy may be needed. Your therapist will use modalities such as biofeedback, electrical nerve stimulation, and manual therapy to help restore the natural function of the nerves.

Range of motion and strengthening exercises will be added as tolerated. Posture is very important during the healing phase. A chest-out position helps open the spinal canal, thus giving more room for the spinal cord. This posture also decreases pressure on the nerve roots. Your therapist will provide sport-specific therapy when the symptoms resolve (go away).


Surgery is not a treatment option for burners or stingers. Management remains conservative(nonsurgical). Patients are followed through the athletic season until recovery is complete.


What should I expect after treatment?

Nonsurgical Rehabilitation

Burners and stingers are self-limiting. This means that with treatment, they will resolve over time. You will likely be able to return to full sports participation when you no longer have any symptoms. Full neck and shoulder motion must be present. And you should be able to participate in practice without any problems before entering a game.

It is possible to get another burner or stinger but it could be something more serious. If you experience these types of symptoms again, slowly lie down on the ground. Wait for the team trainer or physician to examine you before moving your head and neck.

Some football players choose to wear extra padding, special shoulder pads, or a neck roll to protect the neck and avoid reinjury. All equipment should be in good condition and fit properly. Daily stretching of the neck is advised. Players should avoid using spearing or head tackling, which has been prohibited since 1979.

And that was from, it gives a nice breakdown of the stinger injury too.


Now most of these medical sites truly don't give an answer to exactly how long a player will return from a stinger because it depends on the amount of nerve damage. Jenkins has been out for basically 3 weeks and we need him. If this is something more serious than initially led on, the Cowboys need to start looking out their options here. Kelvin Hayden is still sitting out there, and he is the best CB on the market.

We really need Mike Jenkins back ASAP, because he still has a lot of work to do. He needs to refine his technique from last season. He needs to get his head right from last season. He needs to learn a new defense, even though it should be easier for him because CB should be easier to learn than some of the other positions in the new defense.

What truly sucks is the amount of time he has missed. He needed that time to really grind it out and work hard in returning to the Pro Bowl player we saw in 2009, not the toast we saw back there last year. Honestly, I am starting to get worried about Jenkins. Stinger injuries usually aren't that serious in the NFL and players return to their teams when they are ready. But maybe Jenkins is now mentally soft, like he was physically soft last season. Maybe he isn't eager to get back out there and work his tail off.

Now I have no idea if that is the case, and I really hope that isn't the case. This guy used to be one of my favorite players back in 2009. He was shutting down his side of the field and we need that again. This defense is going to be blitzing and we need good cornerbacks to maintain coverage back there. If our cornerbacks suck again this year, this whole defense will go down in flames. We can bring the pressure, and if the cornerbacks have good coverage, we will have a very good defense.

I also wonder if maybe the injury is more serious that we know. If that's the case, why aren't the Cowboys being more honest with their fanbase? If he is really hurt, maybe we should start looking at acquiring another cornerback. Just saying.

Let me just speak to Mike Jenkins personally right here. Mike, you have NFL shutdown CB capability. All the talent is there. You are fast and have good cover skills. You can be physical at the line and press really well. You make nice reads in zone as well. We all saw how good you were when your confidence and swagger were at an all time high in 2009. That year you were the best cornerback in the NFL not named Revis or Woodson. Mike, we need you my dude, we really need you to be hungry and work hard at getting your confidence and swagger back. If you can play at the level we know you can, this defense takes the next level. So I think I speak for all the Cowboys fans here at BTB, please come back healthy and dedicated to playing your best football.

I guess that's all we can ask for as fans of this team anymore. This has become a huge leap of faith Mike, we are believing in you to bounce back and have a huge season. The talent is there, but is your mind and heart there? I think we are allowed to question it after last season, because you quit on a lot of plays. 

This defense really is going to be made or broke by your play this year. I hope you see what I am saying. I am not hating on you, not at all. I am just asking you to work hard, come back confident, find your swagger and play that high level of football I know you can play. At least put your heart into it, at least give everything you have out there on the field. If you fail, at least you can say hey, I gave it my all.

We are waiting for your return Mike Jenkins, we need you.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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