CMU School of Drama

Monday, February 27, 2017

PURF research reveals theater concussions

OHIO: Compass: There’s no tackling or helmet-to-helmet hits in theater, but actors and stagehands are just as susceptible to head injuries as those on the field.

Assistant Professor of Athletic Training Jeff Russell and Brooke Kapple, BSAT ’16, noticed a growing trend in head injuries while working in the Science and Health in Artistic Performance Clinic (SHAPe Clinic). Students working in theater, including set builders, soundboard technicians, actors and stagehands, frequently visited the clinic complaining of concussion symptoms.


Annie Scheuermann said...

YES! YES! YES! This article wrapped up my experience with a concussion in theater pretty well. I am not surprised that people don't report it, with the atmosphere of working on a build/load in/tech there is no stopping, and a you think a head bump the same as a stubbed toe, shake it off and keep going. My concussion ruined so much for me; I couldn't read for month, exhausted all the time, and memory loss. The neurologist I worked with was understanding about theater and how it was strenuous and gave me a limit to what I could do, however I had a second incident where I hit my head a another time and blacked out, the doctor I was with in the ER had no idea about theater and didn't think I needed to take time off from the activity, so health professionals view of theater varies. But, the bigger thing is that us as theater workers need to recognize what were doing can be dangerous and how serious head injuries are. When I had my concussion after the first few days many people assumed I was alright - when my symptoms were the same, it's not a physical thing you can see, but the symptoms are rough as hell. I still have short term memory problems and use filters to read. When someone bumps there head or recently had an incident, it needs to be taken seriously. I have become so much more aware of the seriousness since my injury, and I really hope others can see this too with out having to actually go through the pain.

Julian Goldman said...

Given the number of concussions that happen around Purnell, this doesn’t surprise me. I think one of the most important points this article discusses is how much backstage culture minimizes head injuries. I’ve been working with someone who, after hitting their head, said they thought they got a concussion but kept working anyway. In general, I think there is a lot of “just keep working” in the theater mentality. It often feels like as long as you physically can continue to complete a task despite whatever injury, you should. But that expectation (or rather than illusion of an expectation) is dangerous and causes people to make injuries worse. I think we need to put more emphasis on safety, not just in terms of avoiding injuries, but also in terms of responding to them appropriately. In terms of concussions, I think as an industry we need to be better at identifying them and knowing how to respond to them.