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Marching Bands Experience Physical Challenges

June 2, 2009

According to research presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual meeting in Seattle, the physical challenges and demands of participating in a competitive high school marching band are similar to those experienced by athletes.

Study presenter Gary Granata told Reuters Health that marching bands do not just march in precision formation. 

“In the past 20 years, marching bands have gone to these highly choreographed visual shows, where performers are literally running around the field at very high velocities with heavy instruments while playing very difficult passages.”

“At the top levels of marching band and drum corps, you get a level of competition and athleticism that is equal to a division I athletic program,” added Granata, an exercise physiologist, registered dietitian and owner of the New Orleans-based company PerformWell.

The researchers studied a 172 member marching band from Avon High School in Indiana, which were the Grand National Champions at the 2008 Bands of America competition.  The members completed an anonymous questionnaire on the physical demands, challenges and injuries associated with participating in a marching band.

Band members commonly reported fatigue, muscle soreness, and injuries.

Over 95 percent of surveyed band members reported muscle soreness and stiffness after practice.  Also, nearly half said that they were “frequently tired” after band practice, along with nearly a quarter saying they felt faint or sick to their stomach after marching band participation.  Over half of the members experienced heat-related illness.

Also, over 38 percent said that they had suffered an injury as a direct result of participating in a marching event.

Research conducted on traditional sports has led to guidelines that help ensure the safety of participants and proper methods to enhance training regimens, Granata noted. “Yet, there is essentially no research on marching bands,” he told Reuters Health, “a sport where kids participate in the heat at very high intensity levels that are incurring injuries.”

He concluded that safety guidelines and effective training regimens are needed for marching bands and drum corps because it has a “strenuous physical activity that has rates of both participation and injury similar to competitive sports.”

Image Caption: The Avon High School Marching Black and Gold, a large marching band, is classified as an AAA band in the BOA circuit. Courtesy Wikipedia

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