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Clarkson Physical Therapy Students Offer Performing Arts Wellness Program To Crane Musicians And Suny Dance Majors
Can musicians who spend hours a day practicing avoid or minimize stress-related injuries? Can dancers who are susceptible to lower extremity and back problems avoid serious injury or recurrent pain?
According to students in Clarkson University’s Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) program, creative individuals shouldn’t have to suffer for their art.
“Proper posture and body mechanics as well as strengthening and stretching exercises can reduce chronic pain and the risk of injury to musicians and dancers as well as increase the quality of their performance,” said Clarkson MPT student Lindsay Perkins.
This semester, Perkins and 19 of her fellow graduate students from Clarkson’s Department of Physical Therapy teamed up with Canton-Potsdam Hospital (CPH) professionals to offer a performing arts medicine (PAM) wellness program for student brass and string musicians at the Crane School of Music and dance majors at SUNY Potsdam.
Clarkson Professor of Physical Therapy Leslie Russek and CPH Physical Therapist Victor Caamano mentored the 20 Clarkson students and supervised their work with some 90 performing arts students.
“PAM is a growing field of interest within the physical therapy profession,” explained Caamano, whose own interest in the field was sparked by his experiences as a jazz musician. “A program such as this benefits both the MPT students, who learn how to assess, minimize or prevent arts-related injuries in their patients, and the performing artists themselves, whose careers are not undermined by recurrent pain or discomfort.”
The Clarkson MPT students distributed questionnaires and interviewed the musicians and dancers to assess how many hours a day the students were engaged in the activity and what ongoing pain or discomforts they experienced. The MPT students also observed rehearsals and classes to study the artists so they could point out incorrect posture, poor alignment and make recommendations for preventative strategies.
The Clarkson students then presented their research results in two workshops and in posters and brochures.
“Most of the students held themselves well when actually playing, but their posture would fall apart during the warm up and rest periods,” explained MPT student Michelle Thornhill, who worked with the brass musicians. “There were also specific risks associated with particular instruments. Trumpet players’ wrists are in an awkward position when playing and as the musicians begin to fatigue, their wrists begin to collapse and they then play more on the joints of their fingers rather than the fingertips. Trombone players are holding an instrument that weighs four to eight pounds and so often have pain in the stabilizing arm and can develop tendonitis in their wrists.”
The Clarkson students taught the performing arts students stretches for their shoulders, arms, necks and fingers, emphasized the importance of proper body alignment and how to avoid stress on the joints caused by asymmetrical alignment, as well as the ergonomics of interfacing with their instruments or their environment.
The reaction of the music and dance students to the PAM wellness program was enthusiastic, and, according to Crane Horn Professor Kelly Drifmeyer, a necessary part of the students’ training.
“Injury due to overplaying, poor ergonomics, and lack of knowledge about basic anatomy and physiological concepts is a major problem for student musicians,” said Drifmeyer. “Chronic pain should not be a part of a dancer or musician’s life. Learning about specific risk factors and techniques for preventing injuries and discomfort is important for all performing artists.”
pam1: Clarkson Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) students Laura Blaauboer (left) and Brittany Lyon (center) review stretching and strengthening recommendations for Crane School of Music music education majors as Crane junior and French horn player Patricia Welch demonstrates. The Clarkson MPT students worked with Crane brass and string student musicians as part of a performing arts medicine wellness program to teach performing artists how to avoid or reduce stress-related injuries. The program was sponsored by Clarkson’s Department of Physical Therapy and Canton-Potsdam Hospital.
pam2: Crane School of Music student Claudia Schmitz (left) poses with her trombone while Clarkson Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) student Allyssa Curtis (right) demonstrates how to avoid stress on the arm and shoulder from holding a cumbersome instrument.
The Clarkson MPT students worked with Crane brass and string student musicians as part of a performing arts medicine wellness program to teach performing artists how to avoid or reduce stress-related injuries. The program was sponsored by Clarkson’s Department of Physical Therapy and Canton-Potsdam Hospital.