Injuries of a Dancer

Dancing is a serious sport

This is an area to which I am admittedly new. It is a certain area of the “Sporting/Athletic” that I would not have known much about in the past – apart from my own self diagnosed “Snake Hips” at a family member’s wedding.

Physio with Dancers

So, before working with Dancing with the Stars I had very little knowledge of the demands on the body, on their energy systems involved in both dancing and rehearsals/training. From being involved with the show and chatting to the dancers themselves I now have a much more in-depth appreciation of these things.

What does it take to be a professional dancer?

One of the dancers who runs their own dance school said to me “No matter what sort of dance style you compete in, perform, or even take part of; Dancing in all forms requires flexibility, strength and endurance or stamina – be that down the local hall jiving or on the floor break dancing. Each dance style will demand different things from you.”

Those who dance for shows or compete at different events have to put in a lot of hours. They need to first be:

*Mentally ready, serious preparation.

*Choreograph the moves to make sure it works, rehearsals, performing.

*Then adding in training also to keep themselves flexible and strong as mentioned above. 

For example, the Professional Dancers involved with the show were rehearsing 7 days a week, up to 5 hours a day. Then some had their own studios in which they ran classes. So, injuries to dancers are not an uncommon thing.

What are the most common injuries seen in Dancing?

With the demanding nature of dance, there are a number of body parts which can be injured in a host of different way. Largely speaking these are within the lower body and lower back.

1. Ankle Sprains

One of the most common acute injuries in the dancing world and sporting populations. Due to the amount of movements through the feet, changing direction, twists, spins and jumps often associated with dance – leads to an increased risk of injuring the ankle. Typically brought on by a sudden overstretching of the ligaments in the ankle beyond their normal strain. Pain with this can be felt on the inner or outer side of the ankles, and in more serious injuries will lead to bruising and swelling. Working on balance and co-ordination is a huge area here to help reduce the risk of injury to the ankles.

ankle model with heel injury marked

2. Shin Splints

More often than not this is felt by those who are new to dance, or a new style of dancing, hard floors or improper technique – Toe position is a very important part of dance not only for its look but also how the body accepts load. Thinking similarly to that of runners who recently took it up or began to increase their distances. It is usually caused by an overuse of the muscles in the shin, and resultant stress on the shin bone. Correct foot placement, the right flooring, proper technique and not going too hard and fast too soon are key to keeping this away.

ankle model with injury area marked

3. Achilles Tendinopathies

This is the “stringy bit” that attaches to your heel bone at the back. Usually, this tendon becomes aggravated by an overuse mechanism by pointing the toes or staying up on your tippy toes. This sort of injury is more associated with improper footwear, and over doing it/training too much. A tell-tale sign for this is a “stiffness” at the start of a rehearsal or training, which can ease off, then get sore towards the end, and often tender the day after dancing too. Pain most often will feel down along the heel bone, or along that “stringy bit.”

4. Cartilage Issues

Cartilage is seen in any joint of the body where two or more bones come together. Typically speaking in dance, the most common cartilage issues seen are within the knees, known as meniscus tears. The meniscus acts like a shock distributor between the two bones of the knee. Typically injured during twisting, turning, falls, awkward landings.

5. Back Strain and Spasms

The lower back typically bears the brunt of this. Due to the positional demands on tilting the pelvis forward and backwards, arching the lower back for postural positions and swaying the hips, this causes the lower back muscles to be tensed, and puts an added pressure on the joints of the spine. Spasms typically happen as a result of tiredness or fatigue, muscle imbalances, weaknesses in other areas that lead to the back being overworked.

Dance injury prevention

So, now that is some of the more common injuries in dancing. Next up is how do we keep the risk of these injuries down?

Most of the injuries listed above can be prevented by some changes in your daily routine and activity. Due to these injuries mostly coming from overuse and poor technique – the first step would be to correct the form. But here are some other useful tips to help you reduce the likelihood of injury:

Prevention Tips:

Wear the Correct Shoes and Clothing!!

Ensure your feet and ankles feel supported throughout a routine. Some routines require a certain dress code – but where possible give your feet the best chance with the better footwear.

Warm Up & Cool Down!!

Just like any activity, the importance of a pre-event warm up and post event cool down are HUGE. You initially want to warm the body up to movements that you expect to be in throughout a routine – Stretching/Foam Rolling/Slower Movements into Faster Movements are all acceptable ways to warm up. Allowing the muscles to become more pliable, and joints more freely movable. Then you want to allow the body to slowly cool down, allowing the heart rate to return to normal, and not stiffening up after an intense bout. Not just sitting down. During repeated bouts of dancing – etc competitions – Try to keep the body in a “ready” state as much as possible during breaks.

Practice on the Correct Flooring!!

Different dance styles will require different surfaces, which means it may not always be possible. But it is known that a sprung/rubber floor reduces the pressure on dancers’ knees and ankle joints as they absorb the shock from landing after jumps and lifts. Also ensuring that a floor has suitable traction or grip. (This is why sometimes ballroom dancers will perhaps wet their shoes – I hadn’t a clue why they did that before)

Build Strength and Endurance!!

As mentioned, dancing is TOUGH. Your body will be put through its paces. Choose exercises that firstly you enjoy – but also that challenge the body in a range of different motions and forces. That way the body will be in a better position to cope with the demands placed on it. Reducing Injury risk.

If you are interested in more information on any of the injuries listed above, or any other issues you may be feeling, we have plenty of information available on our website.

Alternatively, feel free to give us a call on 025 35015


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