Background

The performing arts enrich Australia's life and build its image as an innovative and sophisticated nation. This impacts on the global perception of nations as much as do economic and other indicators. Classical orchestral and ensemble music is an important part of the performing arts and an essential component of Australian cultural life. It also makes a major contribution to the Australian economy. Australia has 8 major state professional orchestras including 6 symphony state orchestras and 2 opera and ballet orchestras.

The commercial and cultural success of the orchestras of Australia is due to the outstanding standard of performance achieved by its musicians. However, the physical and psychological demands of elite musical performance currently have an adverse impact on the health of professional musicians. Identifying risk factors for injury in musicians and treatments to reduce pain/ injury and time lost from work associated with their profession is essential. This aim is the cornerstone of the federal government’s occupational health and safety (OHS) policy 2002-2012 and of this project. Soaring workers compensation premiums create an unnecessary financial burden on Australian orchestras. Reducing the risk of occupational injury to musicians was a major recommendation of the Strong report. This project is central to the mission of improving musician health, reducing days lost from work and insurance premiums. While fully aware of the pressing need for improvements in musician health and safety, OHS practice in this sector has to date been a rudderless ship because of the absence of evidence-based best practice in injury prevention and management in instrumental musicians.

Lack of prospective data and highly variable methodologies in existing surveys did not allow clear identification of the relationship between specific risk factors and specific injuries in musicians. Risk factors identified after the injury event help to identify an appropriate population to target for surveillance and intervention, but alone do not infer injury causality and long-term prospective studies are therefore needed. This kind of injury surveillance adopted in sporting populations has resulted in the identification of sport-specific risks that subsequently resulted in significant advances in effective health and safety and injury prevention policies.