Are Ballgames harmful for Violinist?

April 23, 2010 at 03:49 AM ·

Is Ballgames harmful for Violinist? like Volleyball, Basketball, bowling etc... I love to play bowling and Volleyball, will it affect my violin playing? tnx

Replies (26)

April 23, 2010 at 09:40 AM ·


April 23, 2010 at 09:57 AM ·

I can't comment on volleyball but I doubt very highly that bowling can hurt your playing.  Just make sure the ball you play with doesn't pull or strain your fingers and you should be fine.  Several fine violinists I've known have also been excellent bowlers.

April 23, 2010 at 12:50 PM ·

I played intercollegiate and amateur tournament volleyball at a pretty high level for about 15 years and can assure that it is a very bad fit with violin or indeed any other musical instrument. Volleyball is ruinous for your fingers -- I have several that still don't work as they should -- and it's also rough on the rotator cuff of the arm you spike with (my bow arm, since I'm right-handed). I loved playing volleyball, and pursued it during years when I was not playing much violin. So I can't say I regret having played it so much. But the injuries associated with the sport would have made it hard to work on violin seriously at the same time, and now, middle-aged and working seriously on the violin, I'm definitely held back by lingering v-ball injuries incurred 15 or 20 years ago.

Casual, low-level games are probably not as risky as tournament ball. But any sport that puts your fingers in proximity to moving objects poses some risk to a musician, and if you're at all serious about playing violin, I'd exercise a lot of caution.

April 23, 2010 at 01:07 PM ·

I used to fence epee.  In epee, the hand is a valid target - probably the favorite target of experienced epeeists.  Once I began viola / violin lessons, it became very difficult at times to play and practice with a severely buised (and sometimes cut)  hand. 

I tried to hang onto both interests for a while, but it became quite clear after about a year or so that I was going to have to choose between music or fencing.  It was a painful choice, but I was too much in love with music to let it go.  I miss fencing, but I would miss music more if I had to choose again.

---Ann Marie

April 23, 2010 at 01:16 PM ·

Yes, it can be harmful if you're not careful. Since I have gym classes with all kinds of activities like basket, foot and volleyball and I actively play the violin (beginner), I just know that I should be careful and be aware of the risks. But you know, it isn't right to abandon those sport activities for the violin unless you can say that the violin is all you need.

I honestly think that you should find a way to do both activities, sport and playing the violin. Don't limit yourself..  My classmate, a great pianist (7 years of learning) and now is in a major music school -- let's see, his fingers were hit backwards with a football and a basketball, his hand got burned due to stupidity of another classmate. A few days later, all injuries were recovered and it's like nothing happened. << I'm not trying to say that there was no damage but don't think that once you hurt your fingers a little, your violin career is over.


April 23, 2010 at 04:06 PM ·

Thanks guys for all your comments...maybe violin playing is more important to i'll minimize my sports activities...

jake  :)

April 23, 2010 at 04:34 PM ·

I used to suggest that these games were dangerous for my fingers so I wouldn't have to play in school hehe.  Just (like everything you do in life) be careful and you'll be fine. J

April 23, 2010 at 08:04 PM ·

Try tennis! :)

April 23, 2010 at 08:59 PM ·

I would say it is risky, you just don't know what may happen with a hard and heavy ball coming in contact with your hand at a high speed. You can always swim, there's probably no risk in that, unless you drown...

April 23, 2010 at 09:03 PM ·

On the other hand, even violin playing can injure you if you don't practice good posture and habits.

April 23, 2010 at 09:18 PM ·

An important issue...

Everybody is different. Some people seem to be able to do anything, w.o. any trouble - even finger-gripping rock climbing. But most have to be careful. Age is also a factor. When I was a young man I studied a very intense form of Kung-Fu off and on for several years, and one summer of Tai-Chi. I don't remember ever specifically hurting my hands - but I sure got sore muscles often enough so that it did sometimes adversely affect my playing temporarirly. For that and a couple of other reasons, I eventually gave it up. I'm very glad that I did it for a while, and I'm very glad that I gave it up.

For a musician with any interest in the martial arts or physical culture, I would recommend Tai-Chi. As to sports, I'd recommend something that focuses on the legs, like soccer or track. And yes, mis-use or even overuse with the violin, itself can be injurious. Good form, and good posture, and relaxation are most important. And a breather in time saves nine.

April 23, 2010 at 09:26 PM ·

Wasn't Joshua Bell a very serious tennis player at one point?

April 23, 2010 at 09:34 PM ·

I believe that Stern and Michael Tree were. Again, everybody is different.

April 23, 2010 at 10:10 PM ·

I was an avid endurance cyclist and a hardcore bike commuter who had a crash 1.5 years ago that broke my left elbow. I pretty much gave up riding my bike after picking up the violin, because I'm afraid that if I crashed again and broke one of my arms or fingers, I may never be able to play violin again -- between cycling and violin - both of which I love dearly - if I must choose one, violin wins!

April 24, 2010 at 09:15 PM ·

My teacher has told me that at a conference volley ball was listed as  the worst sport for injuring fingers.  My own experience is that I have a developing Dupytren's contractor involving my left ring finger. I did not think about that finger sticking out a bit more than the others when I stepped into a volley ball game at a family gathering three years ago.  I severly injured that finger, possibly tearing a band on one side.  All I did was hit the ball.  It had been probably four years since I had played at a picnic.  My hand was completely swollen up the next day for the rest of the week.   It was extremely painful.    I spent about 8 months working  with a hand therapist and I cannot remember how long it took before I could make a fist again.  Two years later it still felt tight.  Three years later now it is pretty much back to almost normal. 

I was able to play within a few weeks and my hand therapist assured me that it was good PT as playing did not produce any pain.  But after a few months it still took five minutes of scales before I could bend the finger to touch the string.   It was a real ordeal.  Lately after practicing on occasion that joint (the second joint) has been a bit sore so don't know if it is coming back on me or is a new problem caused by the Duyptrens producing stress on the joint.  

My vote is no volleyball if you love the violin.

April 25, 2010 at 12:05 AM ·

I broke my bow pinky while playing compulsory basketball at school. It is find to bow but since it lost a few things that would be essential for the left hand. I mean it would have been a drama if it would have been my left pinky!  I'm now condamn to play only violin since my right pinky has lost quickness and relexes to trill etc (if I was a pianist, wind player, it would be a major problem!) 


April 25, 2010 at 12:14 AM ·

A cellist/pianist friend of mine broke two of the fingers (index and middle) on her right hand when playing volleyball one day. Her fingers were in casts for a few weeks, and she still needed to squeeze therapeutic gel for some period of time afterward.

Unfortunately, volleyball is a required sport at my school, which is why I do everything I can to get out of it.

April 25, 2010 at 12:30 AM ·

Brian, can you get a paper from a professionnal saying that you'll do another sport instead as jogging???  I was able to do this at school. (because I didn't want to play ball again...  )

Good luck! 


Repin said volley was for sure a trip to the hospital in an interview!

April 25, 2010 at 02:17 AM ·

I whole-heartedly agree with Theodore Taimla. Don't live in fear! Yes, we have to protect our hands, but sheesh....I protected my hands, no rowing-machine, no bowling, no roller-blading, NOTHING risky.....and then, one fateful October day, I slammed my finger in a car door, broke it, and even surgery couldn't correct the hammer finger I'm left with. I can still play professionally, but I went out the next day and bought roller blades! (haven't crashed yet....) So, you gotta try to balance your passions, and if violin is your profession, or you want it to be your profession, obviously you'll have to give some things up. But keep in mind...a car door can do it too!

May 25, 2010 at 10:55 PM ·

I sprained my ankle as a kid one time, and I keep spraining the same ankle once every couple years or so. My doc told me to do ankle exercises regularly to keep it from spraining again, because it'll never be very strong.

If wrists are anything like ankles, then it might be that damage done to wrists can also be permanent.

May 26, 2010 at 01:15 PM ·

Obviously there is danger involved in any physical activity of injury that could prevent our music.  Some more than others, and in some cases a reasonable degree of caution is probably required depending on your priorities.  BUT--I wonder if limiting yourself too much in regard to physical activity actually has a detrimental effect on playing.  I heard a study recently that the best handbell ringers were not necessarily the best in-the-practice-room-every-minute music student,s but the athletic ones, because they have the ability to incorporate the music into their physical action in a different way.  Given the very physical nature of our instrument, I would think that we would WANT to use at least some other physical training to promote good body use and bodily intelligence, especially that of the large muscle groups and those which are a part of our playing but not the ones we think about all the time.  I did not do much physical activity growing up, I think I have the bodily intelligence but never developed it, and I think I for one have had to make up for that in my playing.  Thoughts anybody?

May 26, 2010 at 01:39 PM ·

that makes sense kathryn. 

clearly certain sports are more "dangerous" than others. in some sports, we cannot stop opponents from charging into our bodies, sometimes at high speed, sometimes intentionally to do harm to take us out.   (i know of a junior high school girl who was very talented in basketball, but her parents have decided to stop her from playing because every time after the game, both of her arms are bruised, not accidentally:).  basketball in america is a different animal:)

on the other hand, i can think of several sports that should not pose that much "danger".  in fact, as you have said, it may actually help violinists develop a better sense of physical control.  after all, violinists have to use their entire body to play the instrument.  tennis, golf, ping pong, swimming, heck, even brisk walking,,,,what others am i missing.

with tennis and golf, there is also the danger of developing rotator cuff problems, as seen with violinists.  HOWEVER, if trained properly and managed smartly, those sports may actually strengthen our rotator cuff area. 

with sports, after some periods of exertion, our body and mind reach certain level of calmness,,probably as a result of  hormonal rebalance.  i think to be able to experience that  calmness, especially frequently,  is conducive to violinists learning to get into that inner zone while performing.   once we know or have experienced something,,,it is easier to recall it.

June 21, 2010 at 01:26 PM ·

It's harmful only if you watch the Chicago Cubs.

June 21, 2010 at 06:29 PM ·

Maybe a matter of accepting a certain level of risk, and exercising moderation. Competetive sports tend to be rougher, anything done with frequency will tend to cause adaptive changes in muscles and tendons, etc.

OTher activities have similar risk.
I like gardening, and it doesn't affect my playing. When I spend much time with a chain saw cutting wood, I find it difficult to do some simple things. Somewhere in the middle is a reasonable compromise.

June 21, 2010 at 06:44 PM ·


I use to play rugby and wrestled for many years as an amateur and only had minor injuries to my hands and wrists, nothing serious. A right handed person usually injures his right  hand, and for a violinist that is not as bad as injuring the left hand. You can still bow with a cut finger or a damaged knuckle.

The golden rule in sport is, don't play when your injured, that is when serious damage can occur.

June 23, 2010 at 05:42 PM ·

Forty years ago my horse stumbled and fell, throwing me off.  I landed on my right shoulder, and for several weeks afterward I had to prop my arm up against a doorway to be able to pull clothing on and off over my head.  I still have some residual problems with the shoulder (aggrevated several years later by repetitive stress connected with my job) that occasionally affect my bowing.  But I have no regrets about the time I spent riding -- and the various injuries incurred when I was abruptly "unloaded" from time to time!  There are some experiences that -- even though they may have produced long-term complications in playing the violin -- are simply worth the risk.  Everyone must decide for him- or herself the value of a potentially hazardous activity and decide where to draw the line. 

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