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Functional Anatomy of the Soft Palate Applied to Wind Playing

Alison Evans, Bronwen Ackermann, Tim Driscoll
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 25 Number 4: Page 183 (December 2010)

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Abstract: Wind players must be able to sustain high intraoral pressures in order to play their instruments. Prolonged exposure to these high pressures may lead to the performance-related disorder velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPI). This disorder occurs when the soft palate fails to completely close the air passage between the oral and nasal cavities in the upper respiratory cavity during blowing tasks, this closure being necessary for optimum performance on a wind instrument. VPI is potentially career threatening. Improving music teachers' and students' knowledge of the mechanism of velopharyngeal closure may assist in avoiding potentially catastrophic performance-related disorders arising from dysfunction of the soft palate. In the functional anatomy of the soft palate as applied to wind playing, seven muscles of the soft palate involved in the velopharyngeal closure mechanism are reviewed. These are the tensor veli palatini, levator veli palatini, palatopharyngeus, palatoglossus, musculus uvulae, superior pharyngeal constrictor, and salpingopharyngeus. These muscles contribute to either a palatal or a pharyngeal component of velopharyngeal closure. This information should guide further research into targeted methods of assessment, management, and treatment of VPI in wind musicians.

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