Circus Meets Medicine: Las Vegas healthcare providers work to improve care in circus performing

Las Vegas healthcare providers work to improve care in circus performing
Las Vegas healthcare providers work to improve care in circus performing(FOX5)
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 12:08 AM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - As the entertainment capital of the world, Las Vegas has a unique population of performers with unique healthcare needs. Now, there is a push to educate local doctors and healthcare professionals on how best to treat them.

Due to their occupation, performers are at higher risk for both acute and chronic injuries than the general public, but some performers report they’ve avoided going to the doctor because their injury may not be well understood.

“I’ve had countless injuries myself... I’ve fractured my skull, I’ve broken my rib, I’ve severed ligaments and had to have surgery,” revealed professional circus artist Scott McDonald. McDonald shared with FOX5 unless he’s suffering a major injury, the show must go on.

“Our bodies are our paycheck. If you get injured, you can’t perform, you are out of work, don’t make any money,” McDonald asserted. In Vegas, the shows are non-stop.

“Typically, the shows in Las Vegas do somewhere between 300 and 500 shows a year,” McDonald explained.

“We are home to professional, soon-to-be professional, and retired professional acrobats so we should be leading the way in this type of thing,” argued Dr. Nathan Hollister with UNLV Emergency Medicine and helped organize the “Circus Meets Medicine” Conference in hopes of improving care.

“As we have UFC fighters or specialty athletes coming in, all my colleagues, my nursing staff, my techs seem to be familiar with the types of injuries described, I got tackled really hard, I got spun, I got hit in the head but when people would come in with circus injuries... my colleagues and staff didn’t know what was going on or what they were talking about most of the time,” Dr. Hollister.

“We are trying to create more communication, better relationships, and just more mutual understanding between these two worlds,” Dr. Hollister added.

Dr. Hollister states there is a lack of medical research when it comes to circus performers, whereas other areas like football injuries have a lot of resources.

“Because the data is so sparse right now… we are trying to get the base data out. What are the forces on your body in a backflip? What are the forces on your body when you run on a tramp wall? Fly on a trapeze? Do a handstand on another individual?,” Dr. Hollister questioned.

While a doctor not trained in circus medicine may suggest an athlete stay home and rest for two weeks, a doctor who is trained might be able to get them a tailored plan to get them back on stage sooner. Both sides, circus and medicine, say bridging that gap is the goal.