After years of heavy playing, older drummers feel toll on health

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/music/after-years-of-heavy-playing-older-drummers-feel-toll-on-health/article33175055/

Earlier this year, Ulrich attended this year’s Desert Trip, a three-day festival in the California desert featuring Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, the Who and Roger Waters. “Did you notice the drummers?” Ulrich asks. “Only one of them was still an original.”

I hadn’t thought of it, but it’s true. Charlie Watts from the Stones is still keeping time at the age of 75, but the Who’s drummer, for example, is Zak Starkey, the second-generation son of drummer Ringo Starr. “If every singer at Desert Trip was 70 and change,” Ulrich says, “only one drummer was in his 70s.”

The attrition of drummers, Ulrich continues, “It is a real thing.”
Click to read the whole article.
 
T

The SunDog

Guest
I've said this for years. We are akin to athletes in that the eventual wearing down of our bodies and synapses forces changes in our playing as we age. At some point we are no longer capable of being who we once were. Singers suffer from the same thing equally if not more. Very few of the great ones can keep their range and/or tone past a certain age.
 

Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
A lot depends on technique. The less damaging your technique is to your body, the longer you can play. Genes and nutrition play big roles too. I've been able to control my repetitive strain problems with magnesium supplements and correcting my technique.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I think music keeps you as young as you are able to be, especially in old age. My band leader just turned 70. All he seems to know is music. That guy will play until he drops, I think it's all he knows, I can't recall him talking about anything but. But he is a lot better off than every other 70 year old I know. He even survived chemo. How many people kick cancer? That took a toll though, the chemo. He was just telling me about that last night.

Music, if you are genuinely into it and work it...it's great for brain plasticity. Which keeps you young in the mind. Which is about the best you can ask for in old age. Nothing lights up all different areas of your brain like playing drumset.
 

Dizeee

Senior Member
I would like to know how many people have been affected by back issues due to repetitive playing sat down for years.

I am 34 and combining the 5 years of playing when I was younger to my current bout of 7 weeks, my back is already screwed with a disc herniation and other muscular consequential strains. Most of that comes from a seated day job in a car but still, it can't be helped by slouching in front of a kit.
 
G

Ghostnote

Guest
My technique when I was younger was very hard on my wrists, but I've corrected that now. My job as an electrician however, is what will eventually end my playing days. My wrists, shoulders, hips, and knees are all taking a s#!tkicking at work and my right wrist gets so bad at times that I fear carpal tunnel surgery is not far off. I also have scar tissue due to a work related muscle tear in my shoulder that presses on a nerve in my upper back/shoulder area. When it acts up, it sets off a chain reaction which affects my right shoulder/upper back, right elbow, right wrist, and the fingers on my right hand can be cracked every 5 mins due to constant seizing up. Not very pleasant. I'm 46 now. I can only just imagine what I'll be like when I'm 65.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
Yup, I definitely don't play like I'm 20 anymore. I like to think that I play BETTER than I did, but I'm not exactly Captain Caveman behind the kit anymore. I used to be a real basher. Now at age 42, I play music that doesn't require me be a basher, but I can still light a place up when I need to.

My back has been giving me trouble for a solid 3-4 years now. It all started when I moved a couple of cast iron fireplace inserts in and out of our fireplaces. That lead to a 6-week recovery while using a chiropractor and massage therapist. My back hasn't been right since. Since then, I have moved to smaller drums (Used to do the 22", 16", 12" setup. Now, I backed down to a 20" kick in a gig bag). I have a desk job, and at work, I have been able to get one of those stand-up desks which has helped tremendously!

With that said, I absolutely hate the load-in/load-out process these days. Our band is starting to get more popular and playing more outdoor shows; however, we have to supply the PA system. We are looking at getting subs this year (hopefully!), but I already dread it because not only am I the drummer, but I'm the PA guy too.

Playing drums really doesn't hurt me; it's all of the other crap surrounding playing drums that makes me ache. For right now, it's still worth it...and I hope I can say the same 20 years from now. I try my best to enjoy every gig.
 

WallyY

Platinum Member
I suspect most of those old rocker drummers spent many years trying to pollute themselves with vice and sloth.

I've been playing on a drumset since I was 12 and now I'm almost 53.
I have only one health issue related to drumming. I have Raynauds in my hands and it's very bad. Some newer research seems to think it's not from repetitive hand trauma any more and that it's just genetic, so I can't assume with full confidence that it's purely from drums.

I had to have the doctor send me to a nutritionist for me to get off my ass and learn to move and eat properly.
I'm now in the best fitness of my life ever - and it's tragic watching my peers.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
Been playing drums in bands for 46 years with no health issues. I had plenty of blisters early on but better technique sorted that. I should imagine bass players having more back problems than drummers. A heavy weight on one shoulder is not good for posture. Guitarists dont suffer the same problems, of course, as the chip on there other shoulder balances things up.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
If you played for years and years with bad technique, playing overhard because of amps cranked to 11, I bet your body is broken now.

Not that lessons and volume control are necessarily a panacea for these issues, but they certainly can't hurt.

As a 44-year-old drummer who used to do all the wrong things (including jumping out of planes carrying my own body weight in equipment, then carrying it up the side of a mountain), I am doubly mindful of what I put my body through. I have several herniated discs, an ankle that spontaneously seems to sprain, and a left arm that goes in and out of functionality (imagine trying to play with your fingers gone completely numb).

I don't need drumming to add to my list of woes; I need it to remedy that which ails me. I went back and reexamined my posture, my grip, the ergonomics of my kit, and even my balance between the throne and my pedals.

Drumming is very rarely a hardship for me any more, and as a result it's twice as fun.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
If you played for years and years with bad technique, playing overhard because of amps cranked to 11, I bet your body is broken now.

Not that lessons and volume control are necessarily a panacea for these issues, but they certainly can't hurt.

As a 44-year-old drummer who used to do all the wrong things (including jumping out of planes carrying my own body weight in equipment, then carrying it up the side of a mountain), I am doubly mindful of what I put my body through. I have several herniated discs, an ankle that spontaneously seems to sprain, and a left arm that goes in and out of functionality (imagine trying to play with your fingers gone completely numb).

I don't need drumming to add to my list of woes; I need it to remedy that which ails me. I went back and reexamined my posture, my grip, the ergonomics of my kit, and even my balance between the throne and my pedals.

Drumming is very rarely a hardship for me any more, and as a result it's twice as fun.
46 years of drumming, and I played in heavy rock bands, is a piece of cake when you do a hard manual job 40 hours a week and train every day as an endurance runner. It depends on how big or small your comfort zone is.
 

drumdevil9

Platinum Member
I was starting to have wrist problems playing heavier music. You know, that electric shock kind of pain in the wrist. Luckily I'm playing softer music now and have been pain-free so I can keep playing all night no problem. I'm very greatful that I can keep doing what I love without damaging my body just by playing different music.

Lars unfortunately doesn't have that luxury. He has to go out there and give a Metallica level peformance every gig which must be pretty tough sometimes. I know my wrists would beg for mercy before the half way point.

My hat is off to him just for that.
 

whiteknightx

Silver Member
I'm 49, and have done weekend bar gigs for 25 years. My back gets sore lugging around the hardware bag, and my knees ache pretty good after a gig. I can just imagine what sort of chronic pain 25 years of playing metal in stadiums would have on your body.

And style of music is huge in the damage to the body. What kind of shape are todays blast beat style drummers going to be in in 20 years. Still playing that style? They can't exactly go find a jazz gig.

It was a very interesting article. It shined some light on some things I've wondered about as I got older.
 
F

funkutron

Guest
I'm 61. I have been injecting testosterone for about ten years. It keeps my bones, joints, muscles and tendons strong so that I can continue playing. I can do this because I have type II diabetes which is a catabolic disease, and causes my testosterone level to drop to the point that I have a deficiency anyway, so getting a prescription is no problem. Probably without it, drumming would be much more difficult at my age. There may be some risks, but I feel that the benefits far outweigh them. I also have a work-related back injury that I treat with medical marijuana and prescription painkillers. So I won't stop playing anytime soon.....

But I also have ringing in the ears ALL the time, you just have to get used to it or you'll go "barmey"...and when I listen to music, the tv, etc., I have to turn the treble WAY up, or everything sounds muffled.

I also mike my kit ALL the time, even in small clubs, because it's like driving a car with power steering and brakes as opposed to being without all that, I want my hits to come through without having to use really big sticks and pound hard. If you're playing with amplified guitars, etc., it just makes sense. It takes a bit more work, but it's well worth it.
 
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larryace

"Uncle Larry"
When you sit at the drums, you shouldn't slouch. I used to slouch too. I'm lucky in that I always had a strong back. But my posture sucked when sitting and walking. I've since learned that your ears should line up with your shoulders, hips, and knees when standing, and when sitting I purposely push my lumbar area forward. It's just good posture. It looks better, because it is better.

Also an inversion table is a beautiful thing. When I come home from a long hard day working electric, I'm compressed. A few minutes upside down and like magic, I feel 86% better :)
 

mikel

Platinum Member
When you sit at the drums, you shouldn't slouch. I used to slouch too. I'm lucky in that I always had a strong back. But my posture sucked when sitting and walking. I've since learned that your ears should line up with your shoulders, hips, and knees when standing, and when sitting I purposely push my lumbar area forward. It's just good posture. It looks better, because it is better.

Also an inversion table is a beautiful thing. When I come home from a long hard day working electric, I'm compressed. A few minutes upside down and like magic, I feel 86% better :)
Nice but expensive. A top pro physio gave me a set of spine stretching exercises that make that expenditure un necessary. I never have any back issues, despite the fact I damaged my back at work, hence the the visit to the physio.
 

lsits

Gold Member
With that said, I absolutely hate the load-in/load-out process these days. Our band is starting to get more popular and playing more outdoor shows; however, we have to supply the PA system. We are looking at getting subs this year (hopefully!), but I already dread it because not only am I the drummer, but I'm the PA guy too.
I've been in bands where each of the band members were responsible for transporting part of the PA to and from gigs. Every member was supposed to supply their own mics or other inputs to the PA and their own mic stands.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Nice but expensive. A top pro physio gave me a set of spine stretching exercises that make that expenditure un necessary. I never have any back issues, despite the fact I damaged my back at work, hence the the visit to the physio.
Good that you found your own answers. Back health/strength is key.

A quick check at Amazon has inversion tables from between 100 to 200 dollars.

It's harder than you think to be upside down. I can only take it for maybe 5 minutes tops.

But that's all I need to uncompress.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
It's not just hard rock drummers.

I used to think I'd gladly cut off my small toe with a rusty knife to have just 1/4 of Weckl's technique, so it was quite interesting to read he too had suffered his share of injuries

http://podestasportsmedicine.com/tips-from-the-training-room/if-i-only-knew-then-what-i-know-now/

Dave Weckl:

For example, I used to play my main ride cymbal pretty high to the right of the second rack tom on the bass drum. This positioning was necessary to attain the clearance necessary to hit the rack tom cleanly, and still be able to get to the ride.

The problem is that it caused me to have my arm up in the air, thus crunching my shoulder against my neck. This caused nerves to eventually get pinched, causing numbness in the fingertips and hands – eventually leading to my hands freezing up.

-----
I was eventually told that this was due to ‘repetitive motion’, and later, the 5th vertebrae hitting nerves due to being out of place. I was also told this was caused by being in the wrong position for too long, including when I slept, but especially when I played the drums.

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My biggest problem now is an arthritic thumb in my left hand. I believe this condition, though partially due to heredity, is also due to playing the traditional grip far back in my hand for so long while slamming backbeats. This is something I don’t do now, and haven’t done for many years, but know has caused a lot of stress on my thumb for many years.
 
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