“Dance is a song of the body. Either of joy or pain” - Martha Graham
There are a range of health benefits when it comes to dancing that can help you stay and feel young. However, as with any regular physical activity that requires flexibility, strength, stamina, endurance and speed, it can put your body at risk of injury. Regardless of whether you are a professional or amateur dancer, young or old, knowing how to minimise your risk of injury will keep you dancing for joy.
Dance injuries can be categorised into four main areas: physique, technique, overuse and accidents, the most common type being nontraumatic, chronic injuries located on the lower leg.1 A majority of these lower leg injuries were attributed to a lack of anatomical turnout, hypermobility, hypomobility, lack of strength and other external factors, such as the type of footwear, floor surface, frequency, intensity and duration of dance sessions.2 Scarily, studies have found that it is very common for dancers to ignore injury and only seek treatment when they are no longer able to dance. Injuries that were once mild become harder to manage when not quickly addressed. It is thought that when tendinitis is not treated properly it can lead to chronic tendinosis, and an injury that could originally require only a week of rest can instead take months to heal.
There are a few things that will help minimise your chance of dance injuries:
If you have a pre-existing injury, especially to the foot, lower limb or back, consult your dance studio or doctor before starting classes. One of the most common predisposing factors is whether a dancer has had a previous injury. People with previous lower back injuries must take particular care, as this has been closely linked to many other sites of injury.3
Carefully consider what dance style suits your body. Some dance styles require less sudden movement: hip hop dance involves a lot of fast hard attitude; swing dance involves lots of jiving and jumping; and contemporary can involve a whole range of contortions and unexpectedly beautiful movements. Consequently, knee injuries are found to be more frequent in contemporary dance than in other styles.4
Always warm up and cool down when doing dance classes. Stretching is extremely important. Remember to add this into your weekly routine, if your dance instructor hasn’t already included it in the practice time.
Wear professionally fitted dance shoes that are appropriate to the dance style. Dance injuries such as foot blisters, bruising and ingrown toenails can all be avoided by choosing the proper footwear.
Concentrate on the correct posture and technique, before you concentrate on choreography. Injuries are more likely to occur in “uncontrolled” dance environments, such as improvisation or choreography classes. Dance technique classes are considered to be more controlled environments, as they have the constant supervision of professionals who are correcting technique, making sure you minimise the risk of injury.5
Take regular rests and eat well before class. Fatigue can lead to poor technique and posture, which can make dancers more likely to fall and injure themselves.
If you’re ready to give dancing a go, in an environment that will lead to development of proper technique and minimise the risk of injuries, sign up for your free first class at MarShere.
¹ Somogyi DM: Lower leg injuries in dance. J Dance Med Sci 2001; 5(1):21-25.
² Jenkinson DM, Bolin DJ: Knee overuse injuries in dance. J Dance Med Sci 2001; 5(1):16-20.
³ Laws H: Fit to Dance 2. London: Dance UK; 2005
4 Solomon RL, Micheli LJ: Technique as a consideration in modern dance injuries. Phys Sportsmed 1986; 14(8):83-89
5 Self-reported and reported injury patterns in contemporary dance students Jo Baker, MSc, Daniel Scott, MSc, Katherine Watkins, MCSP, Sheramy Keegan-Turcotte, MSc, Matthew Wyon, PhD --- Baker, Jo, et al. "Self-reported and reported injury patterns in contemporary dance students." Age (yrs) 20.2.51 (2010): 21-0