Reena Gupta MD / Center for Vocal Health

Vocal Health for the Vocal Athlete

Vocal Athlete perfectly describes the extreme challenge of being a professional voice user. Like any sport, vocal sports require using your body in an exceptional way, accessing the voice beyond what is normal. A voice actor uses their voice to its extreme, just like a runner uses their legs to their extremes.

Considered this way, then vocal health care should look like sports medicine. But currently, medicine for sports looks very different than it does for voice.

Sports medicine: comprehensive and proactive, managing issues before they impact performance.

Sports medicine is proactive. Baseball players get annual physicals to clear them to play. This comprehensive evaluation is not just of their throwing arm, either. It’s their lung function, heart health, muscles and joints, because all contribute to their athletic performance. 

Voice health care: reactive, only seeing a doctor when there is a problem

Sports medicine involves training for optimal performance.

Sports medicine is optimization for high performance. The baseball player gets small medical issues managed, has physical trainers and specialized trainers for their craft (pitching coaches, strength trainers, etc).

Voice health care: narrow , focuses on vocal cord health. Low investment in training and habilitation, optimization.

Sports medicine identifies problems early and seeks solutions.

Sports medicine prioritizes early evaluation and intervention. Pain or drops in performance/output are evaluated early. Treatments are implemented quickly and the athlete is guided back to healthy performance on the field. 

Vocal health care: late, medical visits are a “last resort” when the athlete can no longer push their voice.

Sports medicine is customized to athletic demand by a specially-trained physician. 

Sports medicine is practiced by those who deeply understand the athlete, their sport, and the demands placed on their whole body. The physician guides safe rehabilitation and care, incorporating their knowledge of the sport and each athlete’s unique situation.

Vocal health care: general medical care sought from non-specialized professionals for quick “fixes” like steroids, injections, and antibiotics.

Sports medicine manages the whole athlete during times of injury. 

Sports medicine respects that high-demand and high-impact performance can lead to injury even in the best of circumstances. The work is to support the injured athlete, mentally and physically, leaving space for acceptance and a path for recovery.

Vocal health care: dismissive or blaming – blames the injured athlete and does not focus on whole recovery, including muscular environment, mental health, and other areas that impact performance.

The voice actor’s work is to care for themselves as an athlete and to ensure everyone in their environment does the same

  • Annual vocal physical: seeking care preventatively to establish a baseline
  • Manage medical problems that affect your voice: these should be identified during your baseline exam and a strategy and follow up plan deviced
  • See a Laryngologist, not an ENT or general doctor, for vocal health care
  • Get checked as soon as there is a change in your voice/performance
  • Invest in training, habilitation, and rehabilitation
  • Advocate for the best in vocal health care

Identifying a Laryngologist and vocal health care team can be difficult. Educational resources exist and I’ve created a checklist as well that can help you ensure your doctor is best equipped to care for you and your voice. 

Shifting your mindset from being a set of vocal cords to being a vocal athlete will shift your approach to vocal health care, helping you find the best care and your best, healthiest and longest-lasting voice.

This page was written by Dr. Reena Gupta at Center for Vocal Health

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