The hazards of artistic performance are getting more attention in the medical community, according toThe Houston Chronicle.

Artists have been dubbed "small-muscle Olympians" — requiring finely honed skills, conditioning, stamina and agility, according to the article.

Recent research supports this. One study found three of every four orchestra players had a significant medical problem affecting their ability to play. Another found 66 percent of performers in Broadway shows had sustained injuries on the job. And a third found 37 percent of rock musicians reported hearing loss.

The greatest hearing loss occurs among classical musicians. Violinists are exposed to sounds that violate OSHA standards, and the playing of trombones and trumpets has been compared in one study to the noise made by a cannon, according to the article.

Musicians also suffer disproportionately from carpal tunnel and other repetitive stress-related injuries — one study found ten percent of instrumentalists, most often string players or keyboardists, are afflicted with injuries to the hands or wrists.

Dancers, whose average age of retirement is 26, have special needs because their low body weight, strict dieting and lack of menstrual cycles of many can lead to osteoporosis and stress fractures.

As part of the recently launched National Center for Human Performance — a Houston initiative also targeting sports, space and the military — healthcare professionals also will aim to enhance artists' performance.

Richard Wainerdi, the president of the Texas Medical Center, says the idea behind the national center is to shift people's focus from disease to wellness and performance, to better understand the full potential of people. Research might focus, for instance, on the best age at which to start playing a particular instrument or better, earlier ways to determine a person's aptitude for a chosen career.