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A Study of Right Shoulder Injury in Collegiate and Professional Orchestral Cellists: An Investigation Using Questionnaires and Physical Assessment

Dale Rickert, Margaret Barrett, Mark Halaki, Tim Driscoll, Bronwen Ackermann
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 27 Number 2: Page 65 (June 2012)

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Abstract: Purpose: Cellists sustain high levels of playing-related injury and are particularly susceptible to right shoulder pain, yet no studies have attempted to propose a mechanism for disease or establish possible causal factors. The aim of this study was to investigate shoulder injury levels and causes in two populations: professional orchestral cellists and college-level student cellists. Methods: A questionnaire and physical testing protocol was applied to both groups of participants, eliciting information on lifestyle, playing habits, and self-reported injury rates as well as physical data on shoulder strength, range of motion, and signs of injury. Results: Right shoulder injuries are common among both student (20%) and professional (42%) cellists and seem to be associated with measures indicating potential lack of strength in the scapular stabilisers as well as potential degenerative changes in the rotator cuff. Significant differences were found in the lifestyle and playing habits of the two groups. There were increased signs of pain and stiffness in the professionals and evidence of decreased muscular support in the students. Male cellists showed less scapular stability; female cellists, however, generally had higher levels of pain. Conclusions: These results indicate that injuries at the shoulder, potentially involving impingement-type pathologies, are a common cause of pain in cellists. Based on this study, future research for cello players could focus on targeted interventions, such as exercises for the scapular stabilisers and muscles of the rotator cuff.

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