Medicine for the Performing Arts

Performing artists maintain a high level of physical fitness. It's a must for the amount of physical and mental stress their jobs often times demand. The Methodist Hospital is establishing The Center for Performing Arts Medicine to, in a sense, give performing arts groups a team doctor.

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Watch just about any professional sports game and when a player is injured many times a team doctor is on the field in minutes. Not all professional arts organizations have the same luxury although the physical demands can be just as great as any sport. Orthopedic Surgeon Kevin Varner runs a clinic for the Houston Ballet. Varner says most injuries happen during rehearsals and those injuries can be unique.

The Center for Performing Arts Medicine is made up of 67 physicians in 25 specialties that cover the whole body from the feet to hands to throat.

The Center also has the goal of researching the injuries and illnesses of performing artists. It not only will help the performers have longer careers, but can also help the general public.

Doctor David Rosenfield directs the Speech and Language Center in the Neurological Institute at The Methodist Hospital. He says it all comes down to the brain. Rosenfield says performing artists tend to over-use parts of their body which in turn can cause problems in the brain.

Rosenfield says at issue is how to re-train the brain to do a better job. Brain imaging technology is what has kick-started this area of research. Varnar says researchers want to study performing arists because as a group they perform motor/sensory/acoustic/brain regulated tasks exceptionally well. Rosenfield says the research can benefit the general population.

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