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Health Tips: Bad Vibes

I’ve written about the negative effects of vibration on the appendages of drummers, who are particularly susceptible to it through feet, throne, hands, and wrists.

The effects of vibration exposure in the hands and wrists are well documented in medical literature. Excessive vibration exposure can lead to nerve injury in the wrists and hands such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Excessive vibratory exposure can also contribute to the development of tendonopathies within the forearms.

The million-dollar question has always been: How do we reduce the exposure to vibration without losing the feel or grip of the stick? Drummers have used a variety of methods to improve grip on the sticks as well as reducing vibration exposure.

Over the past few years a number of stick manufacturers have gotten in on the act, developing sticks with the intent to reduce vibration. Zildjian was the first to my knowledge to market an anti-vibe drumstick. Though the company discovered roughly 50-percent less vibration with its patented Anti-Vibe technology, it was concerned the results might vary from stick to stick since wood was an organic material. Alas, Zildjian could not make any claims about the health benefits of its Anti-Vibe stick.

(Left) Zildjian Anti-Vibe sticks

The basic concept behind the Hornets drum stick design was to combine art with ergonomics and function. Hornet sticks have incorporated a number of functional benefits into the design of the stick. The contoured handle fits more naturally into the shape of the hand than does a straight traditional stick. The raised handle reportedly allows the thumb to relax, reducing strain on the forearm tendons while simultaneously increasing stamina. The proprietary O-rings are supposed to reduce vibration and shock to the wrist. The rings also create excellent grip, helping prevent slippage when the hand becomes sweaty.

Although there is no scientific data that I have been able to reference supporting the medical benefits of these sticks, I have recommended their use for many patients with nerve or tendon injuries, and the vast majority who have made the swap report a significant improvement in comfort, even if the evidence is anecdotal. Further research needs to be conducted specifically measuring the beneficial effects these sticks may provide.

In addition to sticks, gloves are also effective, not only in providing improved grip on the stick, but also in absorbing some of the vibration transferred from the drumhead through the stick and into the hands. A number of manufacturers now market gloves, however, the use of basic baseball batting gloves will serve the same purpose.

Vibration is the foundation by which sound is produced when a drumhead is struck by a stick or by the hand. Reducing whatever amount that gets transferred through the various parts of our bodies while playing will inevitably lower the risks of vibration-induced injuries to our tendons and nerves.

Dr. Luga Podesta is an assistant clinical professor of physical medicine & rehabilitation, practicing orthopedic sports medicine and rehabilitative medicine in Thousand Oaks, California, specializing in the non-surgical treatment of the upper extremities, knee, and spine. He is a sports medicine consultant and team physician for Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Angels and serves as head team physician for the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football League, Los Angeles Riptide of Major League Lacrosse, and is a drummer. Dr. Podesta can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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