High Injury Rates in Dancers...
No one likes to be injured. But how often does it really happen?
Research shows it happens probably more that you think.
Lets look at the stats, the why and what can be done about it.
A review of previous studies done on injuries is dancers (and dance teachers) found that among recreational dancers, 43% will become injured and as many as 86% of pre-professional dancers (those studying dance full time) will become injured.
The majority of these injuries are found to be caused by repetitive stress and affect the
So basically, anything below the waist!
What is repetitive stress?
Repetitive stress is damage caused to a bone, tendon, ligament or joint when movements are repeated over and over. It can occur when you are training too much, have a weakness due to previous injury or incorrect training or from incorrect technique. Examples include tendonitis, bursitis, stress fractures, shin splints or jumpers knee.
BUT ! The rates provided in the research might not tell us the whole picture.
In dance there appears to be what’s called an avoidance culture. Students avoid telling staff about any little niggle or injury in case they are held back a grade, miss out on a competition or are taken out of their dance concert. So, the figures quoted in most dance research based on injuries is probably missing a large chunk of data.
THIS IS NOT GOOD!!
We need to change the culture so that students are identifying things that aren’t quite right sooner rather than later. In most cases, it is much easier and quicker to recover from a little niggle than a full-blown injury. This needs to come:
1. From the dance students. Get to know your body and how it feels after class or rehearsal. If you begin to feel something different going on, talk to someone. Your parents / guardians, your teacher and / or your dance health professional.
2. From the dance teachers. In many cases there will be no need to take a student out of class, a concert piece or replaced in a competition, but this does involve a good recovery and rehabilitation plan to be discussed between the dance medicine professional and the dance teacher. Often, an injured dancer can still participate in many aspects of dance class and rehearsals.
3. From the health professionals. Non dance specific Physiotherapists, Doctors or Exercise Physiologists do not necessarily have the background in dance and therefore do not fully understand what a class or a rehearsal may look like. Without this information they are unable to fully advise how a rehabilitating dancer can participate. In many cases, these specialists will simply tell a dancer not to dance (at all) for X number of weeks. Resulting in frustration and sometimes non-compliance from students. Where possible, if you do need to go to a medical professional, try and find a dance specific or at least a sports specialist and work with them to ...
...Find out what you CAN do, not just what you CAN’T do.
So, what can we takeaway from all of this information?
1. Injuries are prevalent throughout the recreational and pre-professional world of dance. Don’t just assume it won’t happen to you.
2. Don’t avoid talking to your teacher or health professional if you have a little niggle. Get yourself looked at sooner rather than later.
3. Work with your health professional and dance teacher to incorporate what you can do in class and / or performance.
If you have any questions, or like me - believe that prevention is better than the cure, contact me for an initial consultation and take steps to becoming a stronger, safter and more informed dancer through Exercise Physiology. Go to www.dancewright.com.au for more information.
As a side note:
Despite all of the research we have access to, the article does say that there are not enough prospective studies (studies done during the time the dancer is injured, rather than relying on the dancer to relay the information after they are recovered). So, the dance medicine world has much work to do on clarifying the prevalence of injuries in dancers, . I would therefore encourage anyone involved in dance to participate in any relevant studies that may come your way. Just make sure the study is legitimate and ethical. If you have any doubts, please feel free to reach out to me and I can help you confirm if a study is legitimate.
References and Resources
Critchley M, Kenny SJ, Ritchie A, McKay CD. Injury rates and characteristics associated with participation in organized dance education: a systematic review. J Dance Med Sci. 2022;26(2):87-105.