Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Creative Arts


School of Music

Committee Chair

Michael Ibrahim

Committee Co-Chair

Jared Sims

Committee Member

Katelyn Best

Committee Member

Damien Clement

Committee Member

Jeffery Siegfried


When compared to other areas of musical performance, medical research on the performing arts is limited when it comes to studies on woodwind players, particularly saxophonists. The gap in research may be attributed to the circumstances surrounding selection processes and identifying subjects for study. For example, saxophonists are not salaried professionals in orchestras, which are commonly pooled for medical research. Establishing contact with saxophonists to conduct studies can prove difficult due to the wide range of genres that utilize the saxophone. Some issues may also be attributed to research methodology. To find the onset of injuries, researchers in previous studies approached universities to investigate playing-related injuries and health conditions in collegiate musicians. Studies reveal injuries can occur before students in music enter the professional realm, and sometimes as early as high school or middle school. Studies pertaining to collegiate saxophonists are limited to multi-instrumental studies or specific case studies. The purpose of this study is to identify the presence of playing-related injuries and health conditions among collegiate saxophonists.

For the purposes of this investigation, a survey was distributed to collegiate members of the North American Saxophone Alliance in 2018, asking students to respond to questions about whether they had experienced playing-related injuries or illnesses. To qualify for the survey, participants had to be at least 18 years old, be pursuing a music degree at a university in Canada or the United States, have saxophone as their primary instrument, and have been studying saxophone for at least one semester/trimester.

There were 87 responses analyzed using Qualtrics Stats iQ. A total of 79 students (90.80%) reported musculoskeletal playing-related pain. The neck (66.67%), thumbs (52.87%), and wrists (52.87%) were the most reported areas. There were 71 orofacial injuries (81.61%), which included difficulty maintaining the embouchure and/or lip pain (52.87%), jaw pain (49.43%), tooth movement (43.68%), and velopharyngeal insufficiency (31.03%). Eighty students (91.95%) reported other playing-related complications, including stage fright (85.06%), hearing loss (32.18%), dizziness/blackouts (31.03%), and chest discomfort (13.79%). Of the 46 students who reported thumb pain, 41 students (89.13%) reported pain in the right thumb, while 21 students (45.65%) reported pain in the left thumb.

While demographics, musical background, practice routine, and lifestyle correlated with some specific illnesses and areas with playing-related pain, there were not enough students free of playing-related complications to determine the significance of these findings. The survey did reveal that playing-related pain and health conditions are present among collegiate saxophonists. Therefore, it is necessary to educate students on the importance of seeking help at the onset of symptoms and to provide ways to mitigate them within performance practice. Further research is needed to determine the possible causation of playing-related pain in the right thumb, what preventative and treatment options students have used to resolve their symptoms and what factors or activities they have found worsen their symptoms, and lastly, to what extent injuries are prevalent among the saxophone community as a whole.