6 Dangers of Drumline and How to Prevent Them

Dc header 6 dangers of drumline

Drumline is an activity that we all love.

While the general public may not always consider drumline an intense sport, there’s no doubt that the marching percussion activity is an extremely physical one.  

Hauling around the field or floor with a 15-40 pound drum strapped to your shoulders is not for the weak, nor are the all-day rehearsals and extreme focus required for hundreds of repetitions.

Therefore, as with any physical activity, there are inherent risks associated with drumline that you need to be conscious of so that you can take action and prevent them from happening.  After all, the last thing you would want to happen is to be taken out of your drumline due to injury or illness that you could have prevented.

Even if you feel like this stuff is common knowledge, it’s important that you take a few minutes to read through this article and make sure you’re taking the proper steps to avoid these potential injuries and illnesses.  If you’re already taking preventative measures - great!  Continue to do so on a regular basis.

If you aren’t, start taking preventative measures immediately so that you can continue to participate and enjoy the marching percussion activity as well as the rest of your life.

Here we go...


Drumline Can Cause Hearing Loss

What is Hearing Loss?  The inner part of your ears contain little hair cells. The hair cells receive sound waves and turn them into electrical signals that are then carried to your brain to interpret. When these hair cells are over stimulated by loud noises for a long period of time, they essentially die and stop working. When this happens, the hair cell can no longer receive or pick up on the particular pitch it was once responsible for and you lose the ability to hear that particular frequency.  If this happens enough, you can lose a wide variety of ranges which makes it hard to hear every day sounds such as people talking to you.


How to Prevent Hearing Loss

It’s no secret, drumlines are loud. According to Etymotic Research, drumline rehearsals are typically around 115 dB loud and are only safe for less than 3 minutes without hearing protection. The best way to prevent hearing loss in drumline is to wear ear plugs. If you’re on a budget or in a hurry, stop by your local hardware store or pharmacy and pick up a pair of disposable foam earplugs. They can cost as little as $3 and will last you a few rehearsals before needing to replace them. If you want something to last a little bit longer, get yourself a pair of the generic fit plastic earplugs. These can last you a really long time if you take care of them. If you have the money available, get yourself a pair of custom molded musician earplugs. They have special filters on them that simply reduce the sound of the music around you so you still hear everything crystal clear - just softer. These are the most expensive of all the options (around $170), but will last you a lifetime if you take care of them. And, when you consider paying $170 to prevent you from going deaf, it’s really a pretty good deal.


Drumline Rehearsals Can Cause Skin Cancer

What is Skin Cancer?  Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. If left unchecked, these cancer cells can spread from the skin into other tissues and organs. According to the Mayo Clinic, UV radiation found in sunlight can contribute to and increase your risk of skin cancer. The New York Times reports that “most skin cancers occur on areas of the skin that are regularly exposed to sunlight or other ultraviolet radiation. This is considered the primary cause of all skin cancers.”


How to Prevent Skin Cancer

Sun burns and carrier tans are not something to be taken lightly.  Since a lot of the marching percussion activity takes place outdoors, it’s important for you to dress appropriately and wear sunscreen any time you’re outside. Hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen are all a must to help prevent skin damage and reduce your risk of skin cancer. Be sure to read the directions on your sunscreen and apply appropriately. If you’re outside for more than a few hours, be sure to re-apply sunscreen a number of times throughout the rehearsal.


Drumline Can Cause Tendonitis and Carpal Tunnel

What is Tendonitis?  Tendonitis is an inflammation or irritation of a tendon. It causes sharp pain in the surrounding area of the affected tendon and can limit the range of motion as well as ease of motion in the affected region. What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition in which there is pressure on the median nerve (the nerve in the wrist that supplies feeling and movement to parts of the hand). It can lead to numbness, tingling, weakness, or muscle damage in the hand and fingers. Both of these conditions are caused by repetitive motion and (in particular) - tense repetitive motion. They usually occur in the wrist and elbow areas for drummers.


How to Prevent Tendonitis and Carpal Tunnel

While an appropriate and relaxed technique should prevent both of these conditions from occurring, it’s always a good idea to be safe. Warming up properly and avoiding as much tension and joint stress as possible is the best way to prevent these conditions. Make sure that every time you play, you warm up with slow legato exercises to warm up the muscles as well as loosen up the joints and tendons. Over time start to play increasingly more difficult exercises to gradually warm your body up.


Drumline Can Cause Back Pain

What is Back Pain? In this activity, back pain can be a pretty broad subject and entail a number of different conditions. However, the underlying category is similar for them all in the sense that your experience short term or chronic pain in your back. There’s no question that strapping a heavy drum to your shoulders will put a strain on your back. This can be caused by making sharp side to side motions with your drum on, lifting from your back any time you put a drum on, or carrying a drum for an extremely prolonged period of time without taking it off for a break.


How to Prevent Back Pain

Be sure to stretch before and after putting a drum on to even out the balance of your body and relax all of the joints, muscles, and tendons. You should also be sure to consistently work on core exercises such as crunches, push ups, and planks to strengthen your back and abdominal muscles. By doing this, the weight of the drum will be more evenly distributed throughout your core and not solely on your back.


Drumline Rehearsals Can Cause Dehydration

What is Dehydration? Dehydration means your body doesn’t have as much water as it should. It can be mild, moderate, or severe based on how much of the body’s fluid is lost and not replenished. When severe, dehydration is a life-threatening emergency.


How to Prevent Dehydration

Drink water. Lots of it. The important key here is to hydrate yourself with plenty of water hours before your rehearsals even start. If you only start drinking water when you get thirsty, you’re already behind. Be sure to drink lots of water the night before a major rehearsal or show day as well as multiple times throughout the day itself and the following day.


Drumline Rehearsals Can Cause Stress

What is stress?  Stress is your body's response to anything that disrupts your normal life and routines.  It can be an emotional, psychological, and physical reaction to situations or events that put an abnormal amount of pressure on you as an individual.  Stres can cause irritability, anxiety, headaches, rapid heartbeat, depression, and loss of appetite.


How to Prevent Stress

Since stress is often caused by unexpected or high pressured situations, the best way to prevent stress in a drumline setting is to be prepared.  What does that mean?  It means to learn all of your music, drill, movements, and responsibilities extremely well.  The more prepared you are, the more comfortable you'll feel if an unexpected situation is thrown your way. For example, let's pretend there are two drummers on the same drumline.  Drummer A is incredibly well prepared and Drummer B isn't. It's a show day and Drummer B is having trouble with the end of the closer but know's he'll get it worked out in the warm up. The line starts warming up and soon after a show guide comes to tell their instructor that the gate time was moved up and they actually need to leave now.  So, the drumline packs up and heads to the show. Not having the opportunity to review the end of the closer, Drummer B is seriously stressing out right now.  He has to perform a part he's not comfortable at all with in front of an audience where as Drummer A is good to go with the whole situation and ready to throw down. There are always going to be situations in the activity and in life that you don't expect.  A great way to prepare for them and prevent stress is to be prepared in whatever you're doing.  


Drumline Danger Conclusion

While the drumline activity overall is a very safe one, it is important to acknowledge the potential dangers and risks associated with the activity.  Just like any sport or outdoor activity, certain risks are inevitable but completely preventable if you take the proper actions. A professional football player would never start a game without warming up before hand, a professional cyclist would never ride a race without hydrating before hand, and a professional gymnast would never practice without stretching first. The same concepts apply here. Hopefully you’re taking these preventative measures to avoid all of these injuries and conditions. If you’re not, please, for the love of the activity, start taking them so that you can live a long and healthy life!

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Pat McLaughlin

7 January 2013 in Education
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Pat McLaughlin

Pat McLaughlin is the founder of Drumline Chops.  He graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in music education and is currently the percussion director at West Bloomfield High School.