Dance is a sport which incorporates both artistry and athleticism. From pirouettes in ballet to rumba walks in latin ballroom, all dancers undergo rigorous activity from their chosen dance style. All styles require considerable flexibility, endurance, and strength to accomplish specialized movements and actions in all areas of the body. Due to the repetitive nature of dance, overuse as well as acute injuries are quite common.
How Common are Dance Injuries?
A systematic review conducted by the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine reported that the injury rate in both professional and amateur ballet dancers was .97 to 1.24 for every 1000 hours danced (Smith et al., 2015). For a dancer who dances 15-20 hours a week, this is about one injury per year. Another study by Steinburg et al. indicates as female pre-professional dancers age and have increased exposure to dance, there is an equivalent increase in the incidence of injury (Steinberg et al.). Results of this study report a mean of 1.05 injuries per 1000 hours danced at age 8, but a mean of 1.25 at age 14 (Steinberg et al., 2011). Another study which only researched male ballet dancers at three elite pre-professional ballet schools reported even higher incidences of injury: 1.42 per dancer and the risk of injury as 76% over a one year period (Ekegren et al., 2014).
Which Body Regions are Most Commonly Injured?
Most dance injuries occur in the spine and leg, more specifically the lower spine (lumbar spine), hip, knee, and foot/ankle (Smith et al., 2015). Overall, overuse injuries are more common but acute injuries occur as well (Ekegren et al., 2014) (Steinberg et al., 2011). There were no significant gender differences for overuse injuries but male professional ballet dancers show a higher rate of traumatic injuries (Smith et al., 2015).
How Can You Prevent Injuries?
Listen to your body. Be wary of dancing through pain or injury.
Perform a proper warm-up and cool down before and after a dance period.
Perform what is within your ability to do, focusing on proper dance technique as instructed.
Wear properly fitting shoes (read: AIDA Dance Shoes!)
Make sure the surface for dancing is stable and comfortable (Richie et al., 1985)
hat if I am Dealing with an Injury and Still Need to Dance?
There may be times in one’s career where you will need to dance while dealing with an injury. A recent article published by the Journal of Dance Medicine and Science by Claus A.P. and Macdonald D.A. concluded that specific muscle contraction, movement techniques, and exercises promoting strength, power, endurance, and flexibility can help to manage dancers with pain from injuries. Retraining movement and posture can help to change the brain’s perception of pain and improve movement capability (Claus and Macdonald 2017). This is where physical therapy comes into play.
How Can Physical Therapy Help?
Physical therapists are skilled, doctorate-level medical professionals who specialize in optimizing and retraining how the body moves. When movement is performed incorrectly for multiple repetitions, the chance of injury increases. Physical therapists identify not only the improper movement patterns but also contributing factors. Through specialized one-on-one care, physical therapists will work with patients to address the impairments in order to decrease patients’ pain, improve mobility, and subsequently, improve their ability to dance. Physical therapists can also provide individualized physical screenings to evaluate the risk of injury and teach patients various methods for prevention including education and movement retraining.
International Association for Dance Medicine - https://www.iadms.org/
Journal of Dance Medicine and Science (See link above.)
Clause A.P. and Macdonald D.A. (2017) Interpreting Pain Symptoms and How Pain Affects Neuromsucular Control in Dancers: If I’m in Pain, How Should I Train?. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 21(1), 5-12. http://doi: 10.12678/1089-313X.21.1.5.
Ekegren, C. L., Quested, R., & Brodrick, A. (2014). Injuries in pre-professional ballet dancers: Incidence, characteristics and consequences. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 17(3), 271–275. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2013.07.013
Richie, D.H., Kelso, S.F., Bellucci, P.A. (1985) Aerobic Dance Injuries: A Retrospective Study of Instructors and Participants. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 13(2), 130-140. https://doi: 10.1080/00913847.1985.11708751.
Russell, J. A. (2013). Preventing dance injuries: current perspectives. Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, 4, 199–210. https://doi.org/10.2147/OAJSM.S36529
Smith, P. J., Gerrie, B. J., Varner, K. E., McCulloch, P. C., Lintner, D. M., & Harris, J. D. (2015). Incidence and Prevalence of Musculoskeletal Injury in Ballet. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 3(7), 232596711559262. https://doi.org/10.1177/2325967115592621
Steinberg, N., Siev-Ner, I., Peleg, S., Dar, G., Masharawi, Y., Zeev, A., & Hershkovitz, I. Injuries in female dancers aged 8 to 16 years. Journal of Athletic Training, 48(1), 118–23. https:// doi.org/10.4085/1062-6050-48.1.06
Steinberg, N., Siev-Ner, I., Peleg, S., Dar, G., Masharawi, Y., Zeev, A., & Hershkovitz, I. (2011). Injury patterns in young, non-professional dancers. Journal of Sports Sciences, 29(1), 47– 54. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2010.521167
Prepared by Christine W. Yim, PT, DPT
"Christine W. Yim is a physical therapist and dancer. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. Though Christine has experience in multiple dance styles including ballet and modern, her competitive career has been focused on International Standard and Latin Ballroom. She has competed both regionally and nationally. Christine is currently involved with the Performance Arts Special Interest Group within the Orthopedic section of the American Physical Therapy Association. One of her professional goals is to contribute to a standardized, preprofessional dance screen; this way, younger athletes learn how to move optimally in their chosen dance style, minimizing risk for future injuries in order to build a successful, healthy career in dance. For additional questions, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to follow @dr.yimzdpt on Instagram and Twitter for more dance-specific exercise, rehabilitation tips, and more!”
*The information provided is only meant to be informative and is NOT medical advice. Please consider seeing a physical therapist in person.*