Page 20                                             Spring 1987


Those Nagging Little Bumps & Bruises

by Christian Menli, M.D. & Lyndall Menli, Ph.D.


With the increasing interest in juggling and sports medi­cine in the past decade, we decided to study the incidence of injuries in jugglers and find out how they deal with them. In the process, we gathered some other interesting demographic data we will share with you here.


At the IJA's 39th Annual Convention in San Jose last summer, 418 confidential questionnaires were passed out and 136 were returned to us, for a 33 percent response rate. This amounts to approximately 13.6 percent of all jugglers at the convention. Unless otherwise specified, percentages in this study are figured from the total 136 respondents. Note also that not all respondents answered all questions.


Seventy-three percent of respondents were male with an average age of 30.2, and 22 percent were female with an average age of 29.3. The average convention juggler has been juggling for 6.8 years, with 87 percent reporting they are "serious" jugglers (although some wondered what this question really meant!). Here are some charts of responses we received to questions dealing both with injury and with juggling in general:


Balls      Percent

Ten           1

Eight         2

Seven     15

Six           10

Five         41

Four         21

Three       10


Clubs    Percent

Seven         1

Six               2

Five           19

Four           35

Three         44


Rings      Percent

Eight          1

Seven         6

Five           26

Four           17

Three         39


Concerning injuries, 97 (71 percent) reported a total of 173 acute injuries over their careers, with 32 (24 percent) never having had an injury. Fortunately, only 4 percent of these injuries kept jugglers from doing their thing for more than two days, and there were no hospitalizations reported. The 173 acute injuries included:


Injury                   Percent

Bruises                      51

Sprains & strains     20

Cuts                             7

Burns                           5

Blisters                        4

Fractures                     2

Miscellaneous           10


The fractures included a broken arm when an entertainer fell off stage, two fractured index fingers (one doing triple-spin back crosses and the other one juggling bowling pins), and one broken nose passing clubs.


Broken down by anatomic areas, these 173 injuries involved:


Area                   Percent

Fingernails                  6

Index finger                 5

Fingers                      16

Thumb                          3

Hand                          24

Wrist                            9

Face & head               6

Eye                               9

Nose                            3

Teeth                            3


A full 63 percent of all acute injuries occurred between the wrist and the fingertips. The vast majority of these particular injuries were due to club passing, but an important subset resulted from catching the wrong end of something that was either burning or sharp. It should also be noted that all 16 eye injuries were relatively minor and consisted of bruises (87 percent) and cuts (6 percent).


Fortunately, anecdotal tales of detached retinas incurred while passing clubs and other horrible tragedies were not documented by this questionnaire. Since we would anticipate that people with injuries would be the most likely to fill out and return the questionnaire, these tales of terror may well be exaggerated.


It should also be noted that we spoke with many jugglers at the convention who were kept from juggling by injuries acquired doing other things (like injuring wrists doing handstands or various unicycle injuries) which were not picked up on the present questionnaire.


Thirty-seven respondents reported recurring pains while juggling, including:


Area                     Percent

Wrist                           24

Fingers & hands        22

Elbow                          16

Neck                            11

This is very interesting since elbow. back and neck injuries were rarely injured acutely while juggling. Improved posture and technique while juggling may help alleviate many of these recurring pains.


Of all the remedies reported, jugglers found almost all them helpful, including:


Remedy                  Percent

Rest                             13

Stretching                      8

 Ice                                  6

Massage                        5

Medications                   5    (usually anti-inflammatory agents)


Less than 1 percent used heat, technique changes, exercise, casting, or gloves while practicing. It is very interesting that no jugglers reported using compression or elevation in treating acute injuries.


When asked who they sought for advice for juggling injuries, most of them were self-treated (31 percent), a few sought professional advice from a doctor (5 percent), a chiropractor (3 percent), an osteopath (1 percent), a sports medicine therapist (1 percent) a medical book (1 percent), and no response (58 percent).


When asked "Was there any reason you started juggling?" they replied:


Answer                                                                    Percent

For the fun of it                                                              18

Friends did it                                                                   8

Seemed interesting                                                        7

Psychological relaxation/escape boredom                 4

Improve coordination                                                      4

Challenge                                                                         3

To show off                                                                       3

Just wanted to learn                                                         3

Saw a juggler on TV                                                        2

To perform in a play or experiment                                2

Other reasons                                                                   7

No reason                                                                          7

No response                                                                    29

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