Rhythmic Physician: Practice What I Preach

The title of this article could not be truer. I have been trying to play drums for almost ten years now and have written countless articles and advised drummers all over the world about medical issues that could afflict them. I’ve discussed the importance of proper warm up and cool down, and ergonomics and drumming mechanics. I have reported on a variety of orthopedic ailments that could affect our arms, legs, and spine, their warning signs and symptoms, and preached to seek medical advice when pain or discomfort persists. Yet as I have attempted to ramp up my own skill, while trying to master my technique on the kick drum and double pedals, all my knowledge of biomechanics, anatomy, medicine, and common sense flew out the window.

While trying to improve the skill with my feet I developed pain in the front of my knee. I tried to find the optimal seat height, knee and hip angle, and foot position on the pedal, but I just continued to muscle through my daily practices with pain. As I got more and more frustrated not being able to play doubles and triplets with my right foot I just pushed harder. When I say harder, I mean harder with increased force burying the pedal into the kick drum. Luckily, my drum teachers figured out what I was doing mechanically and stopped the insanity. After obtaining an MRI, making a diagnosis, and injecting my own knee twice with cortisone (perks of the trade), I still have not been able to sit and play, but my pain is finally subsiding.

The MRI had revealed a synovial plica (an extension of the protective synovial capsule of the knee) and a medial meniscal tear. However, it is the plica that has been causing all the trouble. This condition occurs when the synovial lining of the knee becomes irritated, enlarged, and inflamed. This syndrome developed in my knee because of the repetitive stresses I placed on my knee while playing with poor technique and not stopping when the pain in my knee persisted. Treatment typically includes rest, icing, anti-inflammatory medications, and corticosteroid injections and for those cases that don’t respond to more conservative treatment, surgical removal might be necessary.

Although I hate to admit I was wrong by not listening to my body when the pain persisted, I offer my knee injury as an example of what not to do. Regardless of the condition, if you develop pain and it persists for more than two or three days, stop doing whatever is causing the pain and get it checked. All this because I didn’t practice what I preach!