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Medical Issues in Playing the Oboe: A Literature Review

Sofia Banzhoff, Maria del Mar Ropero, Gabriele Menzel, Tatjana Salmen, Manfred Gross, Philipp P. Caffier
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 32 Number 4: Page 235 (December 2017)

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Abstract: Playing a musical instrument can affect physical and mental health. A literature review was conducted to determine the prevalence of health problems among oboists, which medical conditions can be caused or exacerbated by playing, whether oboe playing can be a protective factor, and whether recommendations are possible as to who should or should not play the oboe. Searches in 7 databases (Medline, Embase, Cochrane Library, Web of Science, SocIndex, PsyIndex, Psychinfo) yielded a total of 950 studies; after exclusion of duplicates and those not meeting eligibility criteria, 37 articles were selected for final analysis. In addition, Google Scholar and a musicology library served as additional sources, revealing another 6 publications for inclusion. As a result, some evidence was found for musculoskeletal problems, focal dystonia, stress velopharyngeal incompetence, increased intraocular pressure and glaucoma, gastroesophageal reflux disease, lower pulmonary function, disease transmission via instruments, and hearing loss due to noise exposure. Playing the oboe may be protective against obstructive sleep apnea. However, due to small sample sizes, uncertain reproducibility of findings, and lack of accurate descriptions of problems reported by oboists, far more evidence would be necessary to answer the research questions conclusively. There was no evidence for causal relationships, and thus no recommendations can be made regarding who should (not) play the oboe. To improve the quality of medical care for these musicians and to implement prevention strategies, future investigations with more in-depth instrument-specific analyses and higher numbers of participants are needed.

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