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Understanding Overuse Injuries in Young Dancers

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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