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The kinetic characteristics of the bow arm during violin performance: an examination of internal loads as a function of tempo

Peter Visentin, Gongbing Shan
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 18 Number 3: Page 91 (September 2003)

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Abstract: Studies show that 43% to 66% of professional musicians need to stop performing for extended periods due to occupational injuries, often identified as overuse syndrome. Repetitive movement may be the mechanism of these injuries, but the identification of causal factors requires quantitative research into the kinematic and kinetic characteristics of musical performance. The current study examines internal loads of the bow arm during a legato (smooth) bowing technique at a variety of tempos (speeds). Eight professional-level violinists participated in the study. A nine-camera VICON v8i system was used to capture and synchronize upper body kinematics with sound and video. Using a 10-segment biomechanical model (head, trunk, upper arms, lower arms, hands, bow, and violin) and applying inverse dynamic analysis to the kinematic data, moments and forces loading the joints (shoulder, elbow, and wrist) were calculated, revealing quantitative characteristics of the joint load. The results show that load can be measured in terms of quantity and quality, with quantity influenced by factors such as the string played and tempo and quality defined in terms of the type of load (static, quasi-static, dynamic, fundamental, and impact) and psychological and physical constraints. Inverse dynamic analysis reveals that: 1) right shoulder loads vary in quantity and quality depending on the string played, whereas wrist and elbow loads are independent of the string played; 2) loading may be divided into three discrete phases'increasing physical effort, optimization, and approaching physiologic limits; and 3) several factors contribute to impact loading, and tempo plays a dominant role. This is the first study providing quantitative three-dimensional kinematic and kinetic information on the bow and on the bow arm, laying the foundation for further exploration of the causal factors of overuse syndrome and for the potential development of practices that might minimize these injuries.

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