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New Report Raises Alarm About Prevalence of Medical Conditions in Musicians

By Sara Schabas on October 16, 2023

Anyone who’s played the violin knows how easily one can develop injuries. Conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, and fiddler’s neck are common ailments caused by over-practising.

A new report from the Berlin Centre for Musicians’ Medicine surveying over 900 violinists revealed some surprising new findings. The results from Berlin’s Charité Hospital outlined numerous unexpected playing-related health conditions that can develop amongst violinists, as well as ways to address them.

The surprises…

Turns out, it’s not only musculoskeletal conditions that can be acquired from too much time at the fiddle.

Violinists are particularly prone to left-ear hearing impairment due to the instrument’s closeness to that hearing pathway. Violinists in orchestras seated closely to brass instruments are also at risk for hearing loss. Furthermore, violinists can develop muscular disease, focal dystonia, temporomandibular disorders, and even allergic reactions to the violin. Perhaps most shockingly, playing the violin for many hours at a young age was shown to alter a child’s facial development.

But… we need to practise!

…right. However, the report stressed the importance of implementing ergonomic warm-ups and nutritional and health regimes, much like an athlete would. The institute hopes their report may lead to a paradigm shift in rehearsal culture, emphasizing the need for healthy and sustainable rehearsal processes for players.

The big takeaway?

While violinists may enjoy touting their “violinists’ hickeys” to demonstrate their many hours of practice, it may be time to start looking at those hickeys a little differently. Experts recommend mental audiation and other forms of silent practice to avoid health conditions and injuries.

It’s time to stop celebrating overwork and recognize the toll it takes on artists.

Sara Schabas
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