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Sports Medicine Goes to the Circus!

The Bryan/College Station area has its share of Circuses that come to town on a yearly basis.  Just in the last few months we’ve had several here ranging from the traditional animal-based Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey circus, to the high-flying Cirque du Soleil Dralion.  While we watch in awe, we often forget that both the animal and human performers in these shows are also athletes and that their performances are quite demanding both physically and mentally.  

With this in mind, I had the distinct privilege of chatting with Dr. Kristin Wingfield in the Huffines Institute sports medicine podcast this week.  Dr. Wingfield is a sports medicine physician that has a practice in San Francisco.  While Dr. Wingfield takes care of the normal recreational athlete and weekend warriors, her practice also includes many elite and Olympic athletes.  Many physicians can make that claim – even several here in the Bryan/College Station area.  But what makes Dr. Wingfield special is that she not only was an elite athlete (on both the Canadian national gymnastics and diving teams), but that she initially deferred Medical School to run away to the circus!

In the early 90’s, about the time she was accepted into medical school, Dr. Wingfield was selected by Cirque du Soleil to help develop and perform in what was then going to be their first permanent show in Las Vegas, Mystere.  While you can hear the rest of the story on our podcast, what continues to strike me is the specialized medical care that these types of performing artists need and receive.  You may not think about the physical demands and subsequent injuries of performers in dance, ballet, or circuses, but their injuries are real, have actually been studied, and require immediate medical attention so that the ‘show can go on’.  In a performance cast like Cirque, there are often two shows a night, for 5-6 nights a week, with each show being 90-120 minutes long.  Added together, this type physical demand does take its toll and if a performer is sick or injured, there are no stand-bys to take over.  The remaining performers have to cover the act…

By good fortune, we’ve podcast several sports medicine professionals in the performing arts over the past few months, and if you’re interested in these areas, I’d certainly suggest that you listen to those podcasts.  They providing an interesting peek behind the curtain….

Dr. Kristin Wingfield – Circus performers

Dr. Tom Welsh – Dancer (Modern, Ballet) injuries and prevention 

Dr. Roberta Anding – Nutrition for performing artists

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