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Injury Patterns and Rates Amongst Students at the National Institute of Circus Arts: An Observational Study

David Munro
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 29 Number 4: Page 235 (December 2014)

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Abstract: Despite the ever-growing global participation in circus arts, very little research has been conducted into injuries associated with this physical discipline. To date, no studies have examined the incidence of injuries in circus training institutions and schools. In this study, data were collected over an academic year from all student injury presentations to the physiotherapy staff at one Australian circus school. A total of 351 injuries resulting in 1,948 treatments occurred in 33 female and 30 male circus students. The most common mechanisms of injury were acrobatics/tumbling (23%), handstands (12%), adagio (11%), and Chinese pole (10%). The most commonly injured body parts were the ankle (25%), lumbar spine (14%), and shoulder (12%). Interestingly, combined spinal injuries (cervical, thoracic, and lumbar) contributed to 35% of all initial injuries. Females sustained 71% of all hip injuries, but only 33% of all forearm injuries. Males accounted for 59% of all ankle injuries. There were no significant gender-based differences in other body areas. Results indicated that there is no gender-based difference in the overall rate of injury. However, females sustained significantly higher rates of hip injuries and males presented with more forearm and ankle injuries, perhaps reflecting the specific form and style of circus training and contortion undertaken. Spinal injuries had the highest overall rate of initial and follow-up presentations, indicating that both preventative and rehabilitative strategies could be addressed. It is suggested that the most common mechanisms of injury reflect both the amount of time spent training specific disciplines and the extreme physical difficulties and demands placed on the body.

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