Dance is a physically demanding performing art, requiring extreme flexibility, strength and endurance. Most dancers begin dancing at the age of five or six. Dancers may routinely participate in classes during most of the day, followed by rehearsals or performances evenings and weekends. The rigorous schedule for training, rehearsals and performances puts dancers at high risk for overuse and trauma injuries.
Across the spectrum of dance, the majority of injuries are the result of overuse, affecting the ankle, leg, foot, or lower back. According to Johns Hopkins, some common overuse dance injuries include:
- Hip injuries: snapping hip syndrome, hip impingement, labral tears, hip flexor tendonitis, hip bursitis, and sacroiliac joint dysfunction
- Foot and ankle injuries: Achilles tendonitis, trigger toe and ankle impingement
- Knee Injuries: patellofemoral pain syndrome
- Stress fractures: metatarsals, tibia and lumbar spine
- Arthritis: knee, hip, ankle, and foot
Traumatic injuries are different from overuse injuries. They are usually caused by an accident or fall. Ankle sprains are the number one traumatic injury in dancers and often caused by improperly landing a jump.
With a few simple steps, dancers can reduce the risk of injury and keep on their toes:
- Follow nutrition guidelines for sports performances at eatright.org or https://www.northwestern.edu/sportsmedicine/performing-arts/assets/nutrition-for-dancers.pdf
- Stay hydrated before, during and after dance
- Learn proper techniques
- Wear properly fitted shoes
- Dance on “sprung” flooring with shock absorption qualities when possible
- Allow enough time to rest and recover, two days between intense training sessions
- Avoid over-training
- Warm up before training or performances and cool down afterwards
- Cross-train with cardiovascular exercises, running, swimming or biking, to build endurance
- Include core and hip strengthening exercises, such as Pilates and Yoga
- Do not dance through pain
Based on a study, Preventing Dance Injuries: Current Perspectives, the research evidence “recommends that dancers take part in general fitness training, not only as a helpful supplement to their technical training and performance, but as a means to reduce their chance of injury.”1 DOC’s physical therapists will help to identify individual areas of weakness and recommend specific exercises.
When injuries happen, address them immediately. The DOC team of orthopedic surgeons, PAs and physical therapists is available 7 days a week to treat and work with the dancer to rehabilitate any musculoskeletal overuse or trauma injury to get him or her back in step.