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Bouncing our health away
So another Carnival has come and gone, and in my usual post-Carnival state of mourning, I reflect upon the health-related aspects of the two days of floating and bouncing on the road. Rather than preach about the clichéd dangers of alcohol and drunk driving, my reflections centre around the less obvious, less considered aspects that need to be brought to the forefront during this season.
A more holistic approach needs to be taken towards health-related Carnival preparations. Although Trinis seem to have their fitness planning under control, other aspects of health and safety leave much to be desired.
While Trini muscles could have kept up with the tempo and pace on the road, Trini ears were poorly equipped to handle the thunderous explosions and wind-generating noise of the music trucks. It seems to me that each year the music gets louder and the bass gets stronger.
In fact, the bass on many trucks this year was so loud that it actually distorted the music. One had to strategically position oneself in order to hear the actual melodies. What was even more disturbing was the fact that very few people wore hearing protection. Rather, I witnessed many people blocking their ears as the trucks passed.
My protected ears were still ringing on Ash Wednesday, and I can only imagine the bells and whistles that must still be shrieking in the ears of masqueraders who had no protection.
Then there were the poor children, victims of either ignorant or stupid (or both) parents many of whom were clad in full costume and standing next to music trucks holding their babe in arms or pushing prams. These parents were intent on enjoying themselves despite the distressed expressions on their children’s faces…and despite the damage to their ears.
Standard guidelines for noise exposure are not well publicised and this needs to change. The danger zone for hearing damage begins at 85 decibels of noise. To put it into perspective, these music trucks easily reach 105 decibels and higher.
An unprotected ear can only withstand 10-15 minutes of exposure at this level before damage occurs…never mind the 10-12 hours on Carnival Tuesday! NCC needs to enforce these guidelines, fining bands if their noise level exceeds a certain limit.
It is quite ironic that the trucks must now shut off their music in front of POSGEN so as not to disturb the patients, yet no measure is taken to protect the health of the masqueraders. While I absolutely agree that the noise levels should be reduced in front the hospital, it is unreasonable to have masqueraders sitting and waiting for hours without music before crossing the stage.
Again, lowering the music to a softer pre-determined level will surely make both patients and masqueraders happy.
The other health problem with this jamming on Charlotte Street as bands wait to cross the stage, is the fact that the drinks trucks must take a detour onto Keate Street before meeting the bands again as they exit the Savannah.
During this time, masqueraders are left without drinks for hours. I am not speaking of alcohol, but of water and other non-alcoholic beverages.
This poses a significant problem, as dehydration in combination with hot sun, a long day of physical activity, and alcohol consumption are recipes for disaster. There are vendors on the roadside, but when masqueraders pay thousands for an all-inclusive band, the last thing they want to do is to buy drinks. While I understand the issues of severe congestion and time constraints, bandleaders and the NCC need to come to some compromise.
The other issue I observed was the footwear of the masqueraders. I saw sneakers, Converse, sandals and the ever-popular boots in all different shapes and colours.
However, common sense is not so common when it comes to looking good during Carnival, and it is no wonder that those in sandals were seen rubbing their dirty, aching feet, unable to enjoy the final hours of Mas.
The importance of supportive, well-cushioned shoes cannot be understated as the long hours of jumping, standing, walking and chipping take their toll on unprotected feet.
The small muscles of the feet fatigue after a long day of weight bearing and can no longer support the arch. This leads to foot pain and injury. The necessity of proper footwear, with good arch support cannot be overlooked if masqueraders expect to last into the night.
So now that the bouncing has finished and Carnival has once again floated away, I hope that the band leaders, masqueraders and the NCC will begin to reconsider some of these aspects that can help make Carnival a healthier and safer event.
It is the obligation of those in charge to educate and provide opportunities to be safe, and it is the responsibility of the masqueraders and spectators to take advantage of them.
Carla Rauseo, DPT, CSCS is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist at Total Rehabilitation Centre in El Socorro.
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