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Dancing, a beautiful art form that requires passion, dedication, and a harmonious blend of physical prowess and artistry. However, behind the grace and elegance lies a challenge faced by many young dancers – overuse injuries. This BLOG will dive into the intricate nature of this issue and explore the factors contributing to overuse injuries in the world of young dancers.











First Up: What is an over use injury?

Overuse injuries is defined as an injury that occurs when micro-tears in muscles or soft tissues accumulate due to insufficient recovery between repetitive bouts of movement or excessive workload or volume of work. Physiopedia has a great article HERE if you want to read more on this definition. This brings into focus how dancers train, the volume young dancers are doing each week and how much rest they get in between classes or days of classes. Check in with yourself and ask - do I get enough rest? Other factors contribute to this picture and are outlined below....


Unveiling the Contributing Factors:


Age at Menarche:

Studies show a potential link between early menarche (getting your first period) and overuse injuries. Conflicting findings highlight the need for a nuanced understanding of this relationship. This issue lies among a much bigger issue of nutrition and weight in dancers. A topic for another time, but suffice to say, age at menarche can be a contributing factor to overuse injury due to the different hormones in your body.


Growth:

The growth spurt during adolescence may contribute to overuse injuries. Recognising the impact of growth on a dancer's body is crucial for injury prevention. For example, different tissues and bone structures may develop and grow at different times during a growth spurt, with the potential to cause imbalances and malalignments within the body, compounded then by increases in workloads.


Muscle Strength:


 A negative association between muscle strength and injury incidence has been observed in many studies. This emphasises the critical role of supplemental training such as Pilates or targeted strength training to address strength imbalances and reduce injury risk. A weaker muscle will fatigue more quickly than a stronger one. Fatigue muscles are more prone to injury.


Chronological Age:


Mixed results in studies suggest a complex relationship between age and overuse injuries. Understanding individual variations in response to age is essential for tailored injury prevention strategies. Everyone is different, you can't compare yourself with another peer and their capabilities or capacities for dance. Treat your journey as your own. Listen to your body and work with it, not against it.


Training Load:


As discussed above, higher training loads are associated with an increased risk of overuse injuries. Striking a balance between intensive training and adequate recovery is vital for young dancers. Taking that extra class is not necessarily going to be helpful if you are off all your other classes because you have an injury. Be strategic in choosing your classes and allow for rest times.


Conclusion: Crafting Resilient Dancers


Understanding the multifaceted nature of overuse injuries in young dancers is essential for fostering a resilient generation of performers and promoting longevity in dance. Dancers and their mentors must navigate these challenges with tailored training, awareness, and proactive measures. One of the best things you can do for yourself as a dancer is be informed. read up about dance injuries, strength training, common injuries in dance an talk to your teachers and mentors about them. If you have concerns, don't let them slide. Never let a little niggle go - and by little niggle I mean the sharper pains or the pains that go above and beyond a bit of delayed onset muscle soreness. Get your injuries looked at by a professional. The earlier a problem can be discovered, the easier (usually) it is to fix and less downtime is usually needed. Let's look and work towards a future where young dancers thrive, ensuring that every performance is not just a dance but a celebration of strength, artistry, and resilience.


If you would like more information on avoiding overuse injuries, please don't hesitate to contact me on 0493 536 222 or via my website dancewright.com.au . I look forward to helping you become stronger, safer and more informed.


References:

Nico Kolokythas , George S. Metsios , Petros C. Dinas , Shaun M.

Galloway , Nick Allen & Matthew A. Wyon (2021): Growth, maturation, and overuse injuries

in dance and aesthetic sports: a systematic review, Research in Dance Education, DOI:

10.1080/14647893.2021.1874902


Steinberg N, Siev-Ner I, Peleg S, Dar G, Masharawi Y, Zeev A, Hershkovitz I. Injuries in female dancers aged 8 to 16 years. J Athl Train. 2013 Jan-Feb;48(1):118-23. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-48.1.06. PMID: 23672333; PMCID: PMC3554026.








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Dancers have an injury incidence rate (combined pre-professional and professional dancers) of 1.09 injuries per 1000 dance hours.


That means, for every 1000 hours you dance on average you may suffer 1 (– ish!) injury.


Injuries commonly experience affect the foot and ankle, followed by lower spine, knees and hips.


So why don’t dancers train like athletes?


Good question!

There is an innate drive and tradition to attend more classes, improve technique and master dance steps in the dance community. However, a study by Long et al in 2021 - and many others! - have found that a supplemental conditioning program:

  • improved dance performance, and

  • decreased injury risk,

by applying principles of sports science training.

They also found there was a loss in improvement found at a follow up session as not all the dancers in the study continued with the program, identifying the need for continued conditioning for long term effects.


With this kind of conditioning program, dancers were able to see improvements in:

  • balance,

  • leg strength and

  • ankle stability

which are all aspects that underpin many dance movements.


So, dancers should have some kind of conditioning program to help them prevent injury. Just attending dance classes alone does not set you up for decreased risk. But when can I do this you ask? I know, you just don’t have the time. Well...


Dancewright can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and develop an individualised program that you can do at home within a 15-minute time frame. So you can fit them in say when you are watching your favourite Netflix series or even as part of a warm up before class. So here's the offer you can't refuse.....



Jump into Spring!

offers dancers an

  • individual session,

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  • Online Introduction to Strength and Conditioning course


Regular Price: $345


Jump into Spring Offer - Pay only : $249


That's almost $100 off!


Telehealth available if you don't live near Lilydale and Private Health may be available depending on your level of cover.


Book your initial appointment NOW at www.dancewright.com.au

and start your journey to becoming a stronger, safer and more informed dancer.


References:

Long KL, Milidonis MK, Wildermuth VL, Kruse AN, Parham UT. The Impact of Dance-

Specific Neuromuscular Conditioning and Injury Prevention Training on Motor Control,

Stability, Balance, Function and Injury in Professional Ballet Dancers: A Mixed-Methods

Periodisation is something that many elite athletes do to manage their workload over the course of a year, depending on training and competition demands. It varies the amount of workload you do over the course of a year (or other period of time) in order to best prepare for the busy times.



Dancers have the same variance as athletes with regards to demand, rehearsal v performance and rest periods. For example in a study by Shaw et. al 2023, dancers at the Royal Ballet had peak periods of performance volume in December, but high volume hours in rehearsals were between October / November and then January and April. But many dancers and dance teachers don’t take this into account.


As a dancer at a local dance school, your peak periods would be around your competitions, exams and end of year (or other) performances. During these times, you might rehearse more or have extra individual sessions to get you ready for these important events.


This means that these times are when you are more at risk for injury.


Why?


When preparing for an important performance event, dancers (and dance teachers) push themselves to get the best result or performance they can. Extra training hours mean that you expend more energy. If you don’t keep up your eating and sleeping, you and your muscles can fatigue quicker.

Fatigue = Slower Reaction Times and less power and strength in your muscles. Whilst your mind expects your body to perform in a certain way, fatigued muscles increases the risk of injury as they can’t perform the way you expect them too. For example, fatigued leg muscles may mean that your knee isn’t supported properly when landing from a jump, so the knee rolls in and you can dislocate your knee cap, or roll your ankle.


So what can I do?


Look at your schedule throughout the year – and put in your non-dance commitments too! See where your busy and demanding periods are throughout the year and make a plan to reduce the risk of injury during those times.

January

February

March

April

May

Summer Camp - Full time dance for a week

Dance Comps - 2 weekends in a row

Ballet Exams & School Rock Climbing Camp

What sort of things should I do the reduce the risk of injury?


During the busy times:




1. Get enough sleep – at least 7 or 8 hours




2. Eat well – Ensure you get a balanced diet with enough calories to support your activity


3. Take breaks when you can, and rest – meditate, read a book, talk to a friend on the phone




During the not so busy times:


1. Keep up your classes and work on your weaknesses

2. Improve your strength and work on injury prevention with a professionally planned exercise program

3. Ensure you keep eating and sleeping well.


Anything else?


Other key times that can also be high risk injury times are when you return from holidays. Don’t expect your body to be able to do everything it could at the end of last term or when you last went to class. Don’t worry, it won’t take long to get it all back, but do go full on into class when you first go back to it.


If you want some help looking at your schedule, working out your main strengths and weaknesses and make a plan for the rest of 2023 to reduce your risk of injury, contact me now for a Winter Special: 1 hr Initial consultation and 1 x Follow up consultation for $150 (Regular cost $208). Must be booked by 20th July 2023

Book your initial appointment at www.dancewright.com.au and mention Winter Special.


Reference

Rehearsal and Performance Volume in Professional Ballet: A Five-Season Cohort Study, Shaw et al. 2023, Journal of Dance Medicine & Science 2023, Vol. 27(1) 3–12, DOI: 10.1177/1089313X231174684


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