Today at trapeze class I acquired my first injury–it was a bummer. Pain is annoying, and I was a little disappointed that I had to stop and sit out the last part of class where we practice our catches. It can be hard to put the breaks on doing something when you’re having so much fun. I started trying to convince myself that I would be fine to catch, but reality was that it hurt every time I spoke or breathed. My common sense friends reminded me that it wasn’t worth risking making it worse. I was a little disappointed, but it really wasn’t such a big deal. I got a pack of ice and sat on the sideline to video Vanessa. With an activity as athletic as trapeze, you almost expect that injury will eventually occur.
Thinking about my reaction to the situation, I found it interesting to contrast it against the reaction I had when I become injured during graduate school from playing my flute. When I became injured during graduate school I freaked out. It was ‘the end of the world’. There were tears, I felt like a victim, I feared being labeled as ‘ruined’, and I was scared of injuring myself again by returning to playing. I’ve been told by performing arts medicine specialists that this mind set isn’t uncommon among musicians.
Why is it that injury is expected among athletes, but not musicians? I understand that their injuries often have a rapid onset, musicians’ injuries tend to approach more slowly. But both groups are asking their bodies to fill some pretty big orders. And why do musicians sometimes focus on being victims instead of focusing on recovery (a much more productive mindset)?
Perhaps it is for the above reasons that some musicians (including my former flute teacher) dislike the use of the word ‘injury’. Sometimes these things are labeled as a ‘strain’ other times they’re labeled as an ‘injury’. It seems to me that they’re really just different points on a spectrum, but one carries with it negative connotations for musicians. The important thing is to stay in control of the situation. Treat the injury promptly and consistently so that any tissue damage that may have occurred (in this case, inflammation in the muscle) resolves quickly. The goal ought to be to get back to the activity as soon as possible; and return to it having learned something.