Skip to the content

Kansas State University

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
  1. K-State Home >
  2. News Services >
  3. May news releases
Print This Article  


Sources: Vanessa Reyes,;
and Cora Cooper, 785-532-3820,
Photo available. Contact or 785-532-2535.
News release prepared by: Kristin Hodges, 785-532-2535,

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


MANHATTAN -- Musicians at Kansas State University are working to educate string players about common injuries that can result from playing their instrument -- a topic not widely discussed in medicine and music.

Vanessa Reyes, senior in biology, pre-medicine and elementary education, Garden City, created educational materials about the injuries that can result from playing the viola or violin. She is working with Cora Cooper, professor of music, through K-State's Developing Scholars Program, which pairs underrepresented students with faculty advisers for research projects.

"This is a very new area of medicine that didn't really emerge until the 1980s," Cooper said. "I think for a long time musicians have kept it as their own shameful secret because it was seen as a weakness. It is really unknown to the general public. People wonder, 'how do you get hurt playing an instrument?'"

Reyes created a pamphlet of information about injury education for violinists and violists. The brochure has definitions of common injuries that these musicians should be aware of, such as repetitive strain injury that is caused by repetitive action combined with poor posture and excessive force and stress. The information also includes recommendations for choosing a violin or viola and general prevention methods, like using good posture.

"We all get sore from time to time, but I didn't realize there were so many different injuries related to playing," Reyes said.

Cooper plans to create a website for musicians to learn about different injuries that are associated with playing instruments, which will include information from Reyes's project. As a teacher of violin, viola, chamber music and string techniques at K-State, Cooper has seen students have pain from playing their instruments. She has helped bring a physical therapist, who specializes in helping musicians, to K-State to speak with students.

"Amateurs are almost more at risk than professionals," Cooper said. "It's highly recommended by the accrediting board for schools of music that music departments provide some sort of injury education."

Like a sport, if musicians have not consistently played their instrument and then play a long concert, they will be out of shape, she said.

"Even at the high-school level, athletes have trainers," Cooper said. "There's nothing like that for musicians. A really serious high school student might be practicing four hours a day and have rehearsals on top of that, which is more continuous physical activity than a sport."

Cooper has been playing the violin 42 years. Her motivation to create a website about musician injuries stems from her own experience with these problems.

"For me, this all started because I developed a frozen shoulder," she said. "Most physicians don't understand the relation of the instrument to the injury."

She said she wasn't able to play at a professional level for the three years that she dealt with her shoulder.

"I definitely know firsthand the desperation to get information and not being able to find it and being frustrated with the way medical professionals treat you," she said.

Reyes has played the viola in K-State's Symphony Orchestra, and as a biology major she wanted to combine her interests for her project. She said the project has taught her much about human anatomy and how it relates to music. She plans to teach elementary education and continue playing the viola.

Reyes presented her project in April at K-State's Developing Scholars Program Research Poster Symposium. A 2005 graduate of Garden City High School and a 2007 graduate of Garden City Community College, she is the daughter of Pedro and Maria Reyes, Garden City.