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How Injuries Affect High School Band Members

November 8, 2023 – Is marching band a sport? Believe it or not, band members suffer similar injuries to those in other sports, mostly to the knees and ankles, a brand new study shows.

Possible marching band-related injuries include not only soft tissue injuries, but in addition serious illnesses akin to mild traumatic brain injuries or heat-related injuries, based on Air Force Capt. Jacob R. Coene, MD, of Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX.

“Unlike other organized athletics sports, there is this [little] “Data on marching band injuries,” he said. “A better understanding of the injuries sustained by marching band members can be used to implement injury prevention strategies and contribute to the safety of marching band members.”

In a poster presented on the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Coene and colleagues used the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database to go looking for emergency room visits from people ages 10 to 25 years old with ” Marching” or “marches” were related to “band.” Visits were grouped by age (10 to 13 years, 14 to 18 years, and 19 to 25 years), gender, and body part.

Researchers estimated that there were 20,335 marching band injuries in the United States between 2012 and 2021, based on 579 actual cases. Half of the injuries were to the lower extremities, with the ankle and knee being the most commonly injured (18% each), followed by the trunk (10%).

Most injuries (84%) occurred in high school students (ages 14 to 18) and 71% were in women. The most common primary diagnoses were soft tissue injuries, mild traumatic brain injuries, heat-related injuries, and fractures, with population-based estimates of 10,891, 918, 875, and 763, respectively.

Overall, 98% of marching band injuries required no further treatment beyond an emergency room visit, suggesting that many of these injuries could be prevented. But 16% were considered serious, including cases of mild traumatic brain injuries, fractures and heat-related injuries, Coene said.

He was surprised at the high injury rate among women and high school students.

“I actually have no explanation for the increased incidence of injuries in these groups in comparison with men and students, and that is an exciting area for future study,” he said.

“I was not surprised that lower extremity soft tissue injuries were the most commonly observed diagnoses, as these are injuries commonly seen during physical activity and especially marching,” Coene noted, “but I was surprised that mild traumatic brain injuries accounted for 6%. of all diagnoses, and I’m excited to hear how marching band members acquire these injuries and how they might be prevented or reduced.”

Cross-training for band members can be just as valuable as tuning their instruments. When asked what marching band members can do to prevent injuries, Coene recommended exercises and neuromuscular training programs similar to those used in other organized track and field sports.

“Implementing these programs within the marching band could result in a reduction in injuries, but this requires further research,” he noted.

Given the observed risk of mild traumatic brain injury, “mild traumatic brain injury education could help band directors and marching band members recognize these injuries and know respond after they occur,” he said.

Looking forward, “further research is required to discover modifiable risk aspects for marching band injuries and to judge intervention strategies akin to exercise or neuromuscular training programs to scale back marching band injuries,” Coene said.

Researchers were unable to look at all possible risk aspects, including marching surface, footwear and instrument played, which was a limitation of the study, Coene noted. Are tuba players more prone to suffer knee injuries than flautists? Are girls on the drum line at the next risk of ankle sprains than boys? Stay tuned for further studies.