Dance injuries

Khanya Mongondana 

Intelligent dance training

Injuries-Dance is a risky business. We all know that injuries do occur, but learning what causes them and how to prevent can assist in reducing the risk. All information in this article is supported by research done through study and dance medicine research. According to Dr. Justin Howse, longtime physician to the Royal Ballet in England, and one of the pioneers in Dance Medicine, went as far as to say that all injuries were the result of faulty technique. Whilst faulty technique may be a major component of injuries there are a number of other issues to be considered.

When a dancer has good alignment, it is more likely they will have ‘efficient movement”, and put less strain on ligaments/ muscles/joints thus minimising the risk of injury. For example: when the alignment of the knees over the feet during a ”plié” is inaccurate this over time can cause injuries and pain to the knees, as well as cause weakness in the feet such as “rolling” the ankles. This would have an adverse impact on a dancers technique and weakness could occur in allegro, pirouettes and pointe work. Therefore proper “plié” technique using the natural turnout of the dancer and not forced turnout would prevent the risk of these injuries. Every dancer’s body is different, with different capabilities. Some are more flexible and yet may not have much strength, others may be strong yet lack flexibility. It is important for young dancers to know their strengths as well as their limitations and not compare themselves to other dancers. Dance injuries can sometimes occur due to environmental factors that are often beyond the dancers’ control. These may include; a) Temperature of the studio, theatre. b) Concrete or poorly sprung wood floor (often the cause of ‘shin splints’) Fatigue is another risk factor to consider. Overuse of talented dancers with heavy demands of training, performances and competitions puts the young dancer at risk of injuries. Intensive summer school programmes with 3-5 classes a week are a risk if dancers do not know how to pace themselves.

Irene Lo

Cross Training alongside dance practice

Athletes all over the world use cross training methods to maximise performance. Despite the idea that dancers may build bulk, cross training helps to balance muscle strength and flexibility and promotes cardiovascular fitness. There are many options for a dancer to choose from such as Pilates, Gyrotonics, Yoga and swimming.

Young dancers believe they are invincible and are more motivated by the excitement of competitions and often develop habits that could lead to injuries. A good warm-up before performances or competitions should not be dropping to the floor in the splits and staying there. Try to develop your own warm up routine that is beneficial to your needs. Stretching should be done at the end of a warm up, otherwise injuries may result. Warm up ensures the muscles and joints as well as concentration are ready for the demands of the performance. It is just as important that dancers do some gentle stretching after their performance and cool down properly.

“A dream doesn’t become a reality through magic. It takes sweat, determination and hard work.” – Colin Powel.

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