The physical challenges and demands of participating in competitive high school marching band are similar to those experienced by athletes who compete in sports, according to a study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine's 56th Annual Meeting in Seattle.

Gary Granata, Ph.D., R.D., studied 172 members of the Avon (Ind.) High School marching band, the Grand National Champion at the 2008 Bands of America competition. Through an anonymous questionnaire, band members reported fatigue, muscle soreness, and injuries, commonly associated with competitive sports and athletics.

"The visual design of today's marching band shows, influenced by competitive drum and bugle corps, places incredibly high physical demands on the individual performer," Granata said. "Performers are constantly moving, and often running, at velocities that reach 180 steps or more per minute while playing instruments that weigh up to 40 pounds."

More than 95 percent of surveyed band members reported muscle soreness or stiffness after practice, and nearly half said they were "frequently tired" after practice. In addition, more than 38 percent said they had suffered an injury as a direct result of participating in marching band.

"The wealth of research conducted on traditional sports has led to guidelines that help ensure the safety of participants and proper methods to enhance training regimens," Granta said. "Yet, minimal research has been conducted on marching band and drum corps. Thus, there is an opportunity to establish safety guidelines and effective training regimens for this strenuous physical activity that has rates of both participation and injury similar to competitive sports."

American College of Sports Medicine