Athletic training graduate’s research accepted for publication

Marshall University alumna Emily Pratt’s research investigating carpal tunnel syndrome in performing artists has been published in the Journal Medical Problems of Performing Artists. Her study, “Musicians Have Thicker Median Nerve Cross Sectional Area and More Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Than Non-Musicians,” was published Sept. 1.

To conduct the study, Pratt worked with Marshall’s School of Music to compare musicians’ rates of hand dysfunction and carpal tunnel syndrome to those of the non-musician population. The study’s coauthors included Marshall faculty members Mark Timmons, Ph.D., ATC; Henning Vauth, D.M.A.; and Gary McIlvain, Ed.D., LAT/ACT.

Using musculoskeletal tests, ultrasound imaging and patient-reported questionnaires, Pratt documented the differences between the musicians’ and non-musicians’ hand and wrist function. She found that musicians had greater prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms and impairments, greater mean carpal tunnel depth, and more limited range of wrist motion than non-musicians.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is especially concerning for musicians, as it causes pain, numbness and tingling in the hands that can lead to loss of hand function. For musicians who must use their hands each day to create, this condition can be career-ending. Pratt completed the project as part of her Master of Science in Athletic Training degree program. She is from Jefferson County, West Virginia, and came to Marshall for the opportunity to apply her athletic training expertise to the performing arts. Marshall is home to a research and clinical group, the Center for Wellness in the Arts, that is dedicated to providing health and wellness services to Marshall’s performing artists.

Athletic trainers are typically employed by athletic programs, such as those in high schools and universities. When asked why she chose to focus her research on performing artists, Pratt, now a clinical athletic trainer at the Marshall Sports Medicine Institute, said, “my family was very artistic growing up; my brother is a musician and my sister was a professional dancer. I saw firsthand their struggles with certain injuries and the lack of resources available to help them. I was eager to apply my athletic training skills to this area, and enjoyed learning a great deal about the musicians and their injuries during my assistantship.”

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