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Brachial Plexus Injuries and Childhood Limitations

Brachial Plexus Injuries at Childbirth Can Impact a Child’s Ability to Engage in Physical Activity

There are different types of brachial plexus injuries, and they vary in terms of severity. In general, according to a fact sheet from the Mayo Clinic, a brachial plexus injury occurs when the brachial plexus, or “the network of nerves that sends signals from your spinal cord to your shoulder, arm, and hand,” gets “stretched, compressed, or in the most serious cases, ripped apart or torn away from the spinal cord.” For most parents, learning that their child has suffered a brachial plexus injury can be devastating. According to a recent article from the Cleveland Clinic, brachial plexus injuries may affect a child’s ability to stay active, particularly in youth sports. If your child has suffered a brachial plexus injury at birth, discuss your options with a birth injury lawyer.

How serious is a brachial plexus injury? As the article explains, these injuries vary greatly in their severity. In about 90% of cases, however, the nerves are stretched but not torn. This means that those children may be able to recover without surgery. When the nerves making up the brachial plexus are torn, long-term damage can occur. In these instances, children often experience shoulder weakness, issues with elbow flexion, and problems externally rotating the shoulder.

Recognize the Signs of a Brachial Plexus Injury

The Mayo Clinic explains that brachial plexus injuries have a handful of causes, including:

  • Childbirth injuries;
  • Contact sports;
  • Trauma from motor vehicle accidents or falls, for example; and
  • Tumors in or along the brachial plexus.

When brachial plexus injuries occur at birth, they often are described as childbirth injuries. When a newborn baby’s shoulders get “wedged within the birth canal” during birth, it is more likely that the infant will suffer a brachial plexus injury. Sometimes these cases result in damage to the upper nerves of the brachial plexus, which leads to a condition known as Erb’s palsy. Many brachial plexus childbirth injuries result from a doctor’s negligence. If you believe this is the cause of your child’s brachial plexus injury, you should talk to a birth injury attorney.

What are the signs of a brachial plexus injury? Typically they include one or more of the following:

  • Weakness in the hand, arm, or shoulder muscles;
  • Lack of movement in the arm, shoulder, and/or hand;
  • Lack of feeling in the arm, shoulder, and/or hand; and
  • Severe pain.

It is important to discuss you situation with a birth injury attorney if you believe your infant has a brachial plexus injury.

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