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August 8, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Nicole Moyer first strained her voice during a volleyball game and now is quick to lose her voice when cheering at any game.

While it may not be surprising that fans lose their voice during their favorite sporting event, what may be unexpected is that those injuries can lead to permanent damage.

Noticing warning signs can prevent significant vocal cord injury, according to Dr. Arick Forrest, a voice disorders specialist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

“You will start to hear a slight raspiness to your voice and feel like you are straining to get the sound to come out,” said Forrest. “If you pay attention to your body and stop yelling, you will save your voice.”

For most people, vocal cord damage is insidious and occurs over a period of time. They associate symptoms such as occasional hoarseness or a cracking voice with a cold or change of weather when in actuality they are signs of recurring swelling or irritation to the vocal cords.

Any hoarseness that lasts beyond 24 hours can indicate damage beyond just minor swelling, and a physician should be consulted.

“If you are losing your voice or having extended hoarseness, you may need speech therapy or medical help to correct it because if you keep repeating it you are going to eventually cause permanent damage to your voice box,” said Forrest. “Even with surgery, there are only certain things we can correct. The key is to prevent the injury in the first place.” 

Advice from Dr. Forrest for cheering fans:

  • Drink water before and during the game to keep vocal cords moist.
  • Plan five to 10 minutes of “quiet time” during a game to rest your voice. If you feel your voice getting strained or if you hear a ‘pop,’ stop yelling immediately.
  • “Warm up” vocal cords first before screaming. Vocal cords are muscles and need to warm up; just as runners don’t go from sitting to sprinting without jogging first.
  • Practice “vocal hygiene,” such as drinking a lot of water and talking quietly, to help prevent long-term and permanent damage if a problem does occur.
  • Avoid whispering if you have vocal damage. Whispering is even worse than talking and causes more stress to the vocal cords than soft, conversational speaking
  • Avoid talking, as much as possible, as well as caffeine, alcohol and cigarette smoke or other harmful chemicals, if your voice box is irritated.
  • Work with a speech therapist to learn proper breath support, particularly if you are a cheerleader or a serious sports fan.


Contact: Gina Bericchia, Wexner Medical Center Public Affairs and Media Relations, 614-293-3737, or