When pain becomes an injury: Examining perceptions of pain and injury in student musicians


Deliberate repetitive practice is linked to improved skill performance and injury in student musicians. To date, there is no research that examines student perceptions of pain versus injury in practice routine and the training environment. The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine perceptions of pain and injury in relation to practice attitudes of students in post-secondary music programs. A total of 86 post-secondary student instrumental musicians completed an online survey. Questions utilized 4- and 7-point Likert scale and agree/disagree statements to assess when pain is identified as injury and perceptions of pain. Results show different perceptions according to level of study. Ninety-nine percent of undergraduates indicated that there is a difference between pain and injury while seventy-eight percent of graduate students indicated that there was a difference between an injury. Eighty-eight percent of undergraduates agreed that injury occurs when a musician is unable to play at their standard due to pain, while all graduate students agreed (100%). Additionally, when asked if pain experienced during practice indicated they were working harder, all respondents who chose "almost always true" were undergraduates. Deliberate practice in musicians utilizes repetition and extended time durations which includes occupational pain that may not be perceived as injury. Further, students at different levels of study may experience different attitudes towards pain and injury when experienced during skill acquisition.