Injuries can happen in every sector, in work-life and home-life. Paper cuts as you shift through the paper on your desk or accidentally dropping items on your toes as you move objects around the home. Working in a sector that heavily relies on your physically will increase the risk of injury, due to the workload placed on the body. This can not be truer for dancers, as 80% of dancers will experience injury within their careers (Simpson, 2006). Or an average of 6 injuries a year within dancers in this research paper by Allen et al. (2012). Each dance style with have an increased risk of injury to certain areas of the body, depending on where the heart of the technique lies, in ballet dancers this is likely to be the feet whereas in breakdancers injuries in the wrists would be more common. During this post I’ll discuss areas of common injury for dancers as well as some additional risk factors that you may find interesting.
Research finds that there are 8 common types of injuries that are found within dancers these are:
2. Muscle or ligament tear (or strain).
7. Overload (chronicle fatigue) syndromes.
8. Vascular syndromes.
The first of these spasm refers to a contraction within the muscle that will result in a loss of mobility and increased pain. These injuries with occur after overuse. The best way to explain these is to think about the soreness you experience the day after you’ve over exerted yourself, from a work-out or another activity you haven’t done in a while. Rest is a good way to treat this type of injury as well as placing heat on the affected area.
A strain is another injury that occurs due to overuse, and as stated by Simpson (2006), 90% of dancers injuries occur when the body is fatigued. Unlike as spasm though, this is best treated with ice. There are two types of strain, the most common of these for dancers though would be a longitudinal strain. This is where the muscle tissue tears apart, leaving a gap which is then filled with scarf tissue. If the scarf tissue forms incorrectly it could lead to increased risk of repeating injury to the same area. The intensity of this injury is a lot higher than that of a spasm, described above, and as such there is a longer period of recover. The rest period may last 5 weeks to ensure the regrowth as happened properly in order to decrease chances of repeated injury. Physical activity should start gradually following this injury to ensure strength is built up, before considerable reliance is placed on the recovering muscle group.
Tendonitis is simply a swelling of the tendon following a major trauma or repeated minor traumas. This injury, again, needs rest to recover fully. However, both ice and heat are good to use on the area of injury, alternating between the two while also stretching and strengthening the muscle.
One that many have probably come across is the sprain injury. This is an injury that is similar to a strain in that it involves a rift between tissues, in this cause though it is the ligaments that experience the rift. The injury occurs due trauma related to forces that can cause displacement, and are followed by localised swelling in the area where the sprain has occurred. Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation are all suggested for this type of injury, following the RICED guidelines.
Dislocation and Fractures are both more serious injuries. A dislocation is where one area around a joint becomes disconnected resulting in an abnormal position of the limb, and increases the risk of nerve damage. For this injury it’s best to go to medical professionals to ensure the affected area is out back properly, and although it will be accompanied by a lot of pain it can be done without surgical intervention. A fracture on the other hand, is a loss on continuity within the bone. As well as being caused by direct and indirect trauma, this injury may also be caused by illnesses that weaken the bones. As with a dislocation, these injuries are best treated by medical professionals, but before help is sought, immediate resting of the area should occur. This will also need stretching and strengthening while the bone is healing.
The last two injuries are little less common and as such I won’t go into detail but both, chronicle fatigue and vascular syndromes, are best treated with rest.
Finally I wanted to address some other risk factors in the development of injury in dancers. The first of which is low levels of fitness. While dancers are perceived to have high levels of fitness it is also true that there’s always someone with higher fitness levels than you. In Twitchett, et al.‘s (2006) study they found that dancers with lower levels of aerobic fitness were more likely to have injuries, providing another reason to increase your fitness levels.
However, it isn’t just fitness levels that will change your injury risk. A study from 2006 (Rip, Fortin and Vallerand) discovered that the level of passion a dancer shows for dance can influence injury risk. This study found that there seems to be a ‘healthy’ level of passion for dance. This was found to be harmonious passion levels, as dancers displaying this had a reduced risk of injury as they were more likely to engage in problem-focused health promotion. This compared to those with higher levels of passion, who were described as obsessively passionate and were associated with prolonged suffering from chronic injuries. It is perhaps because the desire to dance seems to outweigh the need to rest which then results in increased periods of injury.
Many of these injuries can be treated with rest. So allowing yourself to know when your body has been injured, or is likely to be injured with continued, and giving your body time to recover will prevent the risk of injury.
Common dance injuries – http://www.contemporary-dance.org/common-dance-injuries.html
Injury Prevention – Simpson, 2006