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Analysis of Index Finger Trajectory in Banjo Fingerpicking: Proposed Correlates to Movement Disorder

Gary P. Kenyon, Michael H. Thaut
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 13 Number 4: Page 127 (December 1998)

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Abstract: An experiment was conducted to determine movement patterns in the index fingers of four professional banjo players. The index finger involved in picking the string (the right-hand index finger) was investigated. Banjo players were chosen as subjects due to their ability to sustain high-frequency finger movement under conditions requiring great precision. The purpose of the study was to determine the prevalence in highly-skilled stringed-instrument players of movement patterns hypothesized to be associated with a movement disorder known variously as "focal dystonia," "painless incoordination syndrome," "musician's cramp," or "occupational cramp," which can occur when sustained repetitive movement is performed on a regular basis. The movement patterns under investigation were 1) extreme flexion of the distal interphalangeal (DIP) joint, 2) simultaneous flexion of the proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint and extension of the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint, and 3) abduction of the index finger. Joint markers were placed on the right hand and each participant was videorecorded while performing a standard fingerpicking pattern. Individual frames were digitized, resulting in two-dimensional position data. The data were analyzed graphically and numerically. The results of the analysis of this experiment show that 1) flexion of the DIP joint during the fingerstroke is very moderate during string contact in each of the four players, 2) simultaneous flexion of the PIP joint and extension of the MCP joint is common to all four players, and 3) abduction of the index finger is uniformly absent. Thus as models of good technique, the movement patterns of these four musicians suggest that extreme flexion of the DIP joint and abduction of the index finger joint may be risk factors for the development of movement disorder, and simultaneous flexion of the PIP joint and extension of the MCP joint is unlikely to be a risk factor for the development of movement disorder.

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