Stories about: Performing Artist Athlete Program

What parents of musicians should know about upper extremity injuries

Andrea Bauer Thriving lead image nerve injuries upper extremity musicians

When it comes to orthopedic injuries, sports are usually talked about as high-risk activities, but it’s not often we consider the risk that musicians take when playing an instrument for hours every day.

Musicians can get overuse injuries the same way that athletes do, and are at risk for neck and back injuries, as well as shoulder strain. In particular, nerve injuries in the upper extremities are quite common amongst string instrument musicians, as they tend to hold their instruments in abnormal positions for long periods of time.

While parents may not think that their kid playing an instrument could come with potential injury hazards, these conditions can leave a child or young adult in pain and unable to play. Andrea Bauer, MD, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon in the Hand and Orthopedic Upper Extremity Program at Boston Children’s Hospital details how these injuries occur and what parents should look out for.

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‘Going for it’ with a congenital hand difference

Ashley Murphy Thriving lead image gymnastics

“People ask me if it’s harder to do certain things, and I always tell them, ‘I don’t know, this is all I’ve ever had.’” Despite being born with symbrachydactyly — a condition in which the middle three fingers of her left hand never fully developed — 12-year-old Ashley makes most things look easy. She runs cross-country, plays basketball and even competes on the uneven bars in gymnastics, all with a hand that sets her apart from most kids her age.

“We talk a lot about how everyone has differences,” says her mom, Juli. “I told her when she was little that her hand won’t ever be the same as others, but we can adjust and make compensations so she can do the things she wants to do.” And what does Ashley want to do? The answer to that seems to be almost everything.

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A fine balance: Dance health at every age

dance healthWhen Amelia Maguire, now 17, started dancing at age 3, she coveted the cute costumes. She adored her teacher and seeing her dance friends, says her father Mark. But sometime between the toddler and teen years, Amelia fell in love with dance.

Like many young and enthusiastic athletes, Amelia embraced her sport with a passion “She was doing splits all of the time,” recalls her mother Jeanne. “I didn’t realize I should have said hold up — you’re doing too much.”

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After competitive dreams end, gymnast finds a new beginning

Plica syndrome
Colby at the beach

Colby Parsons fell in love with gymnastics at age 4. “I loved the communal aspect of my team and the focus on mastery in gymnastics,” recalls Colby, now 19 and a Brown University freshman. As a young boy, Colby dreamed of competing as an all-around gymnast in Nationals. But sometimes life plans don’t go according to plan.

As a young teen, Colby was ranked fifth in Massachusetts, but he was in constant pain. His parents thought his knee pain might be caused by growing pains or an overuse injury. His coach suspected shin splints.

“His pediatrician said, ‘Give it a few weeks. Take a break from gymnastics,’” recalls his mother Nancy.

But kids like Colby really don’t take a break.

Despite the pain, Colby continued to compete and reached the state championships in 2012. During a run to the vault, his knee pain became so intense he couldn’t complete the run.

“He had to scratch. It was devastating,” says Nancy.

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