January – February – March 2015
Here is the text from my article in Circa magazine: Please Enjoy!!!!
You can also follow the link to Circa in my earlier news post
Injury Prevention for Dancers
Many of you just finished watching your children perform in various holiday performances. With the new year upon us, the competition season for dancers is ramping up and spring performances and recitals are just around the corner. With all the extra classes and rehearsals, injuries become a real possibility for dancers, dance teachers, and parents.
We often picture in our minds the sweet, cherubic-like children twirling with tutus donned and buns in their hair or hip hop “pop- ping and locking” to the sound of “this sick beat” as Taylor Swift might say. While this is usually how a dancer’s passion begins, it is important to realize that the demands on a dancer’s body go way beyond these elementary skills; they are amazing athletes as well. Dancers must combine athleticism and artistry in a way that fools the viewer into believing that the multiple turns and extremely high, complicated jumps they do take absolutely no effort. If you have seen the new ads for Under Armour featuring Misty Copeland or remember watching Baryshnikov dance, you have to admit that dancing takes grit, determination, discipline, artistry, and athleticism. Along with this comes the reality of injuries.
Injury prevention is something that should and can be done for dancers. Simply taking dance class is often not enough to prepare them for the increase in rehearsals and performances. A screening with a doctor of physical therapy skilled in the art form of dance is one way to target areas to be strengthened and assist dancers in learning about their bodies in a way that provides them the skills necessary to avoid common injuries. The whole body must be evaluated, because often one injury leads to another as the body compensates to keep up with the demands that dance puts on it. Then the hard work for the dancers must begin. The best injury prevention is conditioning that is specific to the demands in dynamic balance, mobility, and stability that are required to succeed as a dancer.
In an article written by Ryan et al., it was reported that 63% of student dancers suffered an injury at some point, with 60%-80% of those injuries occurring at the knee, ankle, or foot, and 20%-40% at the hip and back. As the demand for more and more athletic choreography and performances increases, this number has definitely increased over the last decade.
The strength of the hips in various degrees of turnout is key in preventing the ankle and knee from sustaining injury. The ideal range of motion for a dancer far exceeds what a non-dancer needs. Imagine lifting your leg to the side, up to more than 120 degrees turned out, and holding it gracefully for five to 10 seconds – all while not collapsing in the upper body.
Core strength anyone? I’m not referring to the sit on the floor “curl ups” that most people think of as core strength. I mean on- your-feet, three-dimensional core strength and endurance. Dance specific jumps can put up to 12 times the body weight of force onto the knees. Now picture a jump that is done with the legs totally split to 180 degrees executed three to four feet off the floor. You can see how core, hip, and ankle strength might be really beneficial.
TIPS TO HELP PREVENT DANCE INJURIES
– Add on classes and rehearsals slowly. Don’t ramp up too fast, as this can cause stress fractures and muscle strains.
– Keep your knees lined up over the middle of your ankle during take off and landing of jumps so that you don’t “crank” your turn- out from places that aren’t designed to sustain too much rotary stress. Your femurs in the hip socket are designed as a ball and socket. Let them take care of the majority of your turnout.
– Utilize SAID: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands – this means getting specific to your body and the demands dance puts on it when you choose what type of conditioning exercises to do.
– Don’t forget cardio to improve endurance. Instead of boring machines, think outside the box and pick some of your favorite dance movements, string them together for at least 20-30 minutes every day, and dance your heart out.
Dr. Lisa Apple, PT, DPT is the owner of Revitalize Movement Physical Therapy. She became inspired to become a physical therapist during her 15-year career as a professional ballet dancer. She may be reached at 919-986-4165 or visit www.revitalizempt.com.