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Prevalence of medical problems associated with playing the great highland bagpipe: survey results and comparisons to other musicians

Deborah Barr, Patrick Potter, Lee Van Dusen, Jeanmarie Burke
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 20 Number 4: Page 163 (December 2005)

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Abstract: The number of players of the Great Highland bagpipes (GHB) involved in competition worldwide is unknown. Despite the rising popularity of piping and pipe band organizations, minimal information is available regarding the range of medical problems encountered in pipers. The purpose of this study was to describe the neuromusculoskeletal problems experienced by bagpipers. A survey adapted from the National Flute Association Medical Problems Survey was used and distributed to pipers in the United States and Canada (n = 123). The demographic profile showed that 31% of the respondents have played the GHB for 3 to 8 yrs and 29% have played 20+ yrs. On average, pipers practiced 5 to 15 hrs/wk, and the most common sites of musculoskeletal complaint were the left arm and lower back (32% each). Loss of finger coordination (21%) and neck pain or stiffness (19%) were the next most common complaints. Pain and stiffness were also reported in the left (17%) and right (15%) hand and the left shoulder (11%). The survey results support the concerns expressed by pipers regarding problems resulting from playing the GHB and find these issues correlate with those described in other musician populations. Having determined the primary areas of concern, identifying possible biomechanical and ergonomic issues, as well as instrument-specific strengthening techniques may decrease rates of neuromusculoskeletal problems in the piping population.

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