Sax may be bad for you

December 16, 1999

(Unsafe sax: cohort study of the impact of too much sax on the mortality of famous jazz musicians) BMJ Volume 319 18 December 1999 pp1612-3

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Among famous jazz musicians, playing saxophone is a major health hazard, conclude researchers in this week's Christmas issue of the BMJ. Although woodwind instrument players in general carry a high risk, those most at risk are saxophonists of American origin, say Dr Sanjay Kinra and Mona Okasha, who conducted the research.

The authors speculate that "circular breathing techniques", whereby woodwind instrument players inhale through the nose while simultaneously inflating the cheeks and neck with air may be the cause of the level of mortality among this category of musicians (there are anecdotal reports of death by cerebrovascular causes).

However, playing more than one instrument or being a band leader seemed to have a protective influence say Kinra and Okasha and therefore they advocate health promotion campaigns to encourage saxophonists to play other instruments or to declare themselves as leaders of their band.

The authors conclude that further research is needed into the potentially confounding area of jazz musicians performing in smokey bars and they suggest that attending a number of national and international concert venues would help to resolve the issue and therefore they are currently seeking funding for such a venture!

Dr Sanjay Kinra, Specialist Registrar in Public Health Medicine, South and West Devon Health Authority, Dartington

Tel: +44 (0)1803 861847 Fax: +44 (0)1803 861853


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