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Advances in health and medicine.
Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.
General Health Channel
Reported November 15, 2012

Fixing Musician's Mouth

BALTIMORE, MD (Ivanhoe Broadcast) It’s football season! While we watch high school, college, and pro players put their bodies at risk for our entertainment, musicians on the sidelines are in danger of hurting themselves, too.

Playing a brass instrument can be hard work. Just ask Stephen O’Connor. A trumpet player since fifth grade, he’s been in marching bands, stage pits and orchestras – practicing at least an hour each day.

"I love music, and I love the trumpet, and at this point, it’s become like an extension of my body," O’Connor told Ivanhoe.

But all that playing caused muscle to weaken and scar in Stephen’s lip. A big scare for this dedicated musician.

"I couldn’t hit the notes. I couldn’t hit them consistently."

Dr. Craig Vander Kolk sees about two brass instrument players every week with lip problems.

"I think every horn player has put his lip, or his embouchure, under stress," Dr. Vander Kolk told Ivanhoe.

He says over-use, not warming up and incorrect form are to blame. If the lip muscle is strained, he recommends rest, ice and alternating practice sessions with 20 to 30 minutes of rest. If the muscle scars, surgery is the best option.

"We need to actually cut that scar tissue out and bring the muscle back together."

After a successful procedure and months of rehab, Stephen’s back to playing his horn.

"I wake up, and I’ve got music going through my head already."

Dr. Vander Kolk says musicians from all over come to his center, which has one of the only programs of its kind in the country. He also works closely with physical therapists and injury prevention specialists. He tells us the worst instrument for lip injuries is the french horn because it causes the most stress and pressure. The trumpet is next, and the trombone is also high on the list.

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Craig A. VanderKolk, M. D.
Professor of Plastic Surgery - Johns Hopkins
Associate Director - Plastic Surgery, Mercy Medical Center
(410) 332-9700

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