Kaia Rose and Faculty Mentor: Brittany May PhD., Department of Music
Shortly after beginning my music studies at Brigham Young University, I began to struggle with overuse injury that made it difficult to play my instrument. Conversations with fellow BYU music majors over the past few years revealed that music related injuries seem to be relatively common. The informal conversations with fellow music majors as well as my personal experience with music related injury prompted me to investigate the prevalence of music related injury at the University level. I also began to research preventative and combative methods that could be made more available to students who struggle with injury, as it was evident from conversations with others, that students are often unaware of where to go to get help with their various injuries.
After meeting with Dr. May to discuss ideas for researching music related injury, we determined that the first step would be to conduct a survey to better determine the prevalence of music related injury in university music students. We decided to start by surveying music students at higher education institutions in the state of Utah, and developed a Qualtrics survey that could be administered via email. The researcher designed a 21-question survey including demographic questions about primary instrument and major, as well as multiple choice questions related to experience with music related injury, location of injury, and the onset and treatment of injury. At the end of the survey participants were invited to provide their contact information if they were willing to participate in a follow up interview. The survey was piloted with BYU music education faculty for validity and reliability, and to ensure that survey questions were clear, understandable, and addressed the proposed research questions of the study accurately. Feedback from the pilot study included the need to re-word two of the questions for clarity purposes.
After receiving approval from the Brigham Young University Institutional Review Board to conduct the survey, we contacted the review boards of each institution where we intended to administer the survey and completed any necessary additional requirements. We also contacted each school or department of music at the various institutions to procure assistance in administering the survey to their students. Of the eight universities we attempted to contact, Brigham Young University, Utah State University, the University of Utah, Weber State, and Southern Utah University all responded and approved our project. We were not able to contact or receive approval from Utah Valley University, Snow College, or Dixie State. In November 2017, the survey was administered via email to music students at all of the participating universities except the University of Utah, which will administer the survey in January 2018. Once all of the surveys are received, the researchers will finalize analysis of the data using descriptive statistics and begin conducting interviews with those participants who volunteered.
The survey was distributed to 486 students at BYU, 241 students at Utah State University, 119
students at SUU, and 171 students at Weber State, for a total of 1017 students surveyed so far.
Of the surveys that have been administered, 211 students responded to the survey for a 21%
response rate. While data will not be complete until early 2018, preliminary analysis of the
current data show that 92% of respondents experience pain and discomfort when practicing
and/or performing. Once data have been received from the University of Utah in January, the
researchers will conduct a full analysis of all data and begin conducting interviews with
The implications of the results are still unclear as we are still analyzing the results and still have
one more university to survey; however, initial reports indicate that the majority of music
students who responded to our survey experience some degree of pain and discomfort when
practicing or performing. Initial reports also indicate that many students either attribute their pain
and discomfort to fatigue and/or believe that their pain and discomfort is not severe enough to
need treatment. Others have sought professional help or else have sought advice from their
private instructors regarding their pain and discomfort. Further analysis will be required to
determine how prevalent music related injury is among the students surveyed and to better
understand how students are perceiving their pain by further correlating student responses. The
most common locations where pain and discomfort were reported so far is in the hands, wrists,
shoulders, and back. The affordability of treatment also seems to be a common issue for students
experiencing pain. We hope that the interviews will also shed some light on what students’
specific needs are regarding their injuries and what universities can do to aid students struggling
One of the primary goals of this research is to better determine the prevalence of music related
injury in music majors and also to provide information on where to get help. We intend to
publish our study in the Utah Music Educators Journal and include a list of resources, methods,
practitioners, and specialists who are available to help students struggling with injury or who
wish to improve their physical wellbeing. There are many possibilities for future research
regarding music related injury. For example, further analysis needs to be done on the prevalence
of music related injury in music majors outside of Utah. There is also a need for research
regarding the onset of music related injury and ways it might be avoided in early music
instruction. It would also be valuable to conduct a survey in the future with questions
surrounding the psychology of music related injury. How much and what kind of pain do
students believe justifies needing treatment? How can you distinguish between fatigue and
growing endurance and pain that needs treatment? What are the benefits to musicians of seeing a
professional to help improve the overall physical health and wellbeing of the performer?
Unfortunately, there appears to be a general understanding among music students that pain and
discomfort is normal and part of the experience, and where a certain amount of discomfort can
be expected in any physical endeavor, knowing when pain needs to be addressed as an injury or
understanding what certain kinds of pain mean about the body and what it needs is important for
all musicians to understand.