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New tech tackles classical problem

Thursday, 31 August 2017

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Motion capture technology popularised by Hollywood is helping cellists prevent and overcome chronic injury.

A collaborative research project, between the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), the University of Western Australia and the University of Sydney uses motion capture to investigate movement patterns of elite cellists, aiming to inform the prevention and rehabilitation of injury.

The research follows WAAPA Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Luke Hopper’s previous study, which used motion capture technology for dance.

“Dancers tend to get injured from the bottom up, however cellists are the opposite because most cello playing injuries occur in the upper half of the body,” Dr Hopper said.

“Cellists tend to suffer from forearm, shoulder, elbow and lower back injuries, which are predominately caused by overuse because they spend huge amounts of time rehearsing, practicing and performing,” he said.

Breaking new ground

Dr Hopper said the clinical needs of a performing artist are quite different to those of a dancer or sports person and research into music injuries was still relatively new.

“Performing artists often don’t know how to manage an injury or they might try to hide it.

“There’s a bit of a stigma that if you can’t perform you’ve somehow failed, but a lot of injuries are preventable if they’re addressed at an early stage,” Dr Hopper said.

Using motion capture

Dr Hopper said the motion capture system works by placing dots on the cellist and creating a virtual skeleton. Researchers can then use this to measure the range of movements made while performing a fundamental playing task.

“We looked at the normal movements a cellist would use when they are in good health, so if they do become injured clinicians have a baseline to work towards,” Dr Hopper said.

31 Western Australian cellists with an average experience of 19 years participated in the study. The musicians tested played a C major scale, in two volume conditions – soft and loud.

The research paper was published in Medical Problems of Performing Artists with co-authors Cliffton Chan, Suzanne Wijsman, Timothy Ackland, Peter Visentin and Jacqueline Alderson.

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