Injury patterns and injury rates in the circus arts: an analysis of 5 years of data from Cirque du Soleil

Am J Sports Med. 2009 Jun;37(6):1143-9. doi: 10.1177/0363546508331138. Epub 2009 Mar 13.


Background: Human circus arts are gaining increasing popularity as a physical activity with more than 500 companies and 200 schools. The only injury data that currently exist are a few case reports and 1 survey.

Hypothesis: To describe injury patterns and injury rates among Cirque du Soleil artists between 2002 and 2006.

Study design: Descriptive epidemiology study.

Methods: The authors defined an injury as any work-related condition recorded in an electronic injury database that required a visit to the show therapist. Analyses for treatments, missed performances, and injury rates (per 1000 artist performances) were based on a subset of data that contained appropriate denominator (exposure) information (began in 2004).

Results: There were 1376 artists who sustained a total of the 18 336 show- or training-related injuries. The pattern of injuries was generally similar across sex and performance versus training. Most injuries were minor. Of the 6701 injuries with exposure data, 80% required < or =7 treatments and resulted in < or =1 completely missed performance. The overall show injury rate was 9.7 (95% confidence interval, 9.4-10.0; for context, published National Collegiate Athletic Association women's gymnastics rate was 15.2 injuries per 1000 athlete-exposures). The rate for injuries resulting in more than 15 missed performances for acrobats (highest risk group) was 0.74 (95% confidence interval, 0.65-0.83), which is much lower than the corresponding estimated National Collegiate Athletic Association women's gymnastics rate.

Conclusion: Most injuries in circus performers are minor, and rates of more serious injuries are lower than for many National Collegiate Athletic Association sports.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Art*
  • Athletic Injuries / classification*
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Athletic Injuries / physiopathology
  • Athletic Injuries / therapy
  • Databases as Topic
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Skills / physiology