Injury Threats for High Brass Players
Know the Warning Signs of Satchmo Syndrome
Surprisingly, three-fourths of all professional musicians are injured from their daily work. There are various medical issues little-known outside the music world that can arise from playing a horn as a profession.
In fact, there are maladies that can cause musicians to have to put down their instruments for years to recover. Among these maladies is a medical condition called rupture of the orbicularis oris, or Satchmo’s Syndrome, which can affect brass players but especially trumpet and French horn players. After forcing legend Louis Armstrong to put down his instrument for a year, Satchmo’s Syndrome was named after him.
Satchmo’s Syndrome causes weakness in a muscle of the lip, orbicularis oris, due to a muscle rupture. The symptoms can include loss of endurance, loss of range and control of tone, diminished accuracy, and fatigue in the embouchure. To return to their instruments, musicians who suffer with Satchmo’s Syndrome must undergo surgery and then rest for a significant amount of time afterward.
Wayne Cameron, trumpet player and teacher in Baltimore, suffered from Satchmo’s Syndrome with symptoms first appearing in November of 1989. After a taxing weekend of performances, Cameron noticed an overwhelming sense of weakness on the top left side of his lip just outside of the mouthpiece rim. After several days of rest, Cameron returned to his trumpet only to find that he had lost all control in the middle register.
After an inconclusive trip to an oral surgeon, Cameron found an article online that described a European trumpet player with identical symptoms. After another trip to a plastic surgeon, he was referred to Dr. Craig Vander Kolk. Vander Kolk is Professor of Plastic Surgery at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He specializes in repairing facial birth defects.
Dr. Vander Kolk successfully performed surgery on Cameron’s lip in 1991. After the surgery, Cameron waited 6 weeks for the wounds to heal but was unable to return to his full pre-rupture abilities until 5 years post surgery. Workman’s compensation would not cover Cameron’s surgery, as it could not be proven how the injury occurred, and insurance would not pay because the surgery was performed by a plastic surgeon and therefore considered cosmetic.
Many high brass musicians suffer from this ailment, but it is difficult to diagnose, as many of the symptoms are similar to an overuse injury. Once the rupture has occurred, Satchmo’s Syndrome can put a brass player’s career on hold for months to even years, as they will not be able to play with the same clarity as their former selves.
Wayne Cameron has been helping young trumpeters to reach their goals and potential at Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore for almost 30 years (now retired). Not only known for his uncanny ability to diagnose physical and psychological problems in his students but also able to develop successful strategies to solve these concerns, Mr. Cameron welcomes the opportunity to work with dedicated, talented students who seek insight into problems that may be keeping them from meeting their goals as performers.
Mr. Cameron has had a varied performing, teaching and conducting career. In 1970, before graduating from East Carolina University, he auditioned and won the 3rd/Asst. 1st trumpet position in the North Carolina Symphony. While in graduate school at Peabody, he also won the Principal Trumpet position in the Annapolis Symphony under famed pianist and conductor Leon Fleischer. At age 19, Mr. Cameron performed with the London Symphony and, once in Baltimore, also performed with the Baltimore Symphony. He has been 1st trumpet in the Chesapeake Brass Quintet for 29 years. Mr. Cameron has performed as soloist throughout the East coast. He is also in demand for clinics and workshops on trumpet performance and performance anxiety control.