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Injuries for musicians

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Posted: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 4:34 pm | Updated: 4:42 pm, Wed Jul 3, 2013.

It's football season, and while we watch players put their bodies at risk for our entertainment, the musicians on the sidelines are in danger of hurting themselves too!

Now, doctor's have a new approach to a common injury.

They march, blow and jive to energize crowds, but playing a brass instrument can be hard work. Just ask Stephen O'Connor.

A trumpet player since fifth grade, O'Connor has 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."

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."

Doctor 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."

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

Here's Stephen's lip before surgery. The top was loose. This is the muscle inside. Doctor Vander Kolk removed scar tissue and sewed 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."

A young student whose dream of a career in music is still very much alive.

The doctor says 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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