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Play Well: Educating for the Prevention of Playing-Related Musculoskeletal Injuries at a Specialist Music School in the UK. A Physiotherapist-led Action Research Project.



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Upjohn, Sarah 


Abstract This Action Research took place within a specialist music boarding school in England by the school physiotherapist. It was conceived as a direct result of the physiotherapists concerns about the number of preventable and recurrent playing-related musculoskeletal disorders that she was treating in the pupil population, and is set within the framework of studying part-time for a Doctor of Education award. It aimed to i. increase stakeholder-awareness of risk factors for playing-related musculoskeletal disorders in young musicians

ii. engage key stakeholders in change behaviour to promote practices that place pupils at less risk for playing-related musculoskeletal disorders Key stakeholders were identified as pupils, parents, instrument teachers, boarding house staff and the music heads of departments. An audit of physiotherapy notes established the incidence of acute, chronic and recurrent playing-related injuries, and revealed five main risk factors for injury. There were two complete cycles of Action Research involving the key stakeholders. The first used focus group meetings and surveys to engage key stakeholder groups with issues of playing-related musculoskeletal disorders and to try and increase awareness of the risk factors.
Two ‘light-bulb moments’ arose between the first and second cycles of Action Research. The first resulted in the realisation that assessment can drive learning, culminating in the inclusion of an element of knowledge about risk factors for playing-related injury within the internal school instrument assessment process, and the second was the realisation that the occurrence of preventable playing-related injuries was a safeguarding issue, resulting in the development and introduction of a playing-related injury prevention policy at the school. The effect of the second cycle of Action Research was evaluated via surveys and another audit of physiotherapy notes. The results showed little change in stakeholder awareness of the risk factors for injury, but showed a marked change in pupils behaviour towards management of injuries, with more acute and fewer chronic and recurrent injuries being treated.
This project has generated significant interest beyond the school.





Burnard, Pamela


Playing-related Injuries, Prevention of Playing-related Injuries, Young Musicians, Performing Arts Medicine, Action Research for Change in Music Education, Physiotherapy


Doctor of Education (EdD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
The Purcell School for Young Musicians Wolfson College, Cambridge. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy The Private Physiotherapy Education Fund