EIGHT OUT OF TEN DANCERS INJURE THEMSELVES AT LEAST ONCE ANNUALLY, FOUR TIMES MORE LIKELY THAN RUGBY PLAYERS
Assessment reduces risks of injury and helps you understand
your movement range and postural stability.
By Narmatha Shanmugam BSc. (Hons) in Physiotherapy
EIGHTY percent of dancers incur at least one injury a year which affects their performance, reports University of Wolverhampton. Now compare that with the 20% injury rate for rugby or football players.
Although they may not be involved in the rough and tumble of competitive sports, dancers are also athletes; they do not only have to make their movements seem effortless, but also portray emotion on top of that!
The physical demands required for a dance routine, paired with the misconception dancers have that the only way they can achieve perfection is by practicing (over and over again) - are the right ingredients for a disastrous outcome. They are more likely to ignore aches, tightness, snaps and clicks they experience with their body until – BAM! – they “suddenly” sustain an injury that affects them so much that, forget about dancing, they can’t even walk normally.
So what next? They finally see a doctor and are given two options that are more or less worse case scenarios – one, surgery, or two, stop dancing.
Now, you may think that I’m exaggerating. I’m not. If you are a dancer, I think you better start paying attention to your body and its cries. Not all pain is gain, if you get my drift.
So, when do you start seeing a physiotherapist?
That minor pain which lingers on; those nagging discomfort after your dance class; the occasional click and snap from different parts of your body – all these are tell-tale signs that we would want to get checked.
As a physiotherapist and a dancer, I would aim to prevent you from getting there in the first place. And how do we do that?
Through screening, especially regular screening which is ongoing.
Getting a screening early on in your dance career so that you understand your body type, your posture, the range you have available in your joints, your strengths, your weaknesses and any imbalances you may have in your body, among others. This would give you a better idea on your capabilities, what you’re missing, and what you need to work on.
Let me give you an example.
Think of your turnout in dance. It could be your Plié in Ballet or your Aramandi in Bharatanatyam. Whichever it is, we all know how you strive to get that 180-degree turnout. To some lucky ones, this may come easy. But for many others this may be a little bit of a struggle.
Now there could be a few reasons for this. Through a screening we can identify what is your available turnout range and what is limiting you - either a tightness at the front of your hip, weakness of the muscles required to turnout, or rarely, structural limitations in your joints.
With this information, you can directly work on what is required and see your turnout range improve. This means there is no need for you to force and cheat your turnout by compensating from other areas anymore. And it directly means less risk of injuries and more ease in dancing!
Ongoing regular screening throughout your dancing career will help to monitor the changes in your body and help you take the right measures accordingly.
Lets go back to that serious injury we spoke about earlier.
Am I saying that it is now too late to go back and it’s the end of your dancing career?
NO. When you hear that from anyone, take it with a pinch of salt – maybe a spoonful!
If you have reached that point when you feel like giving up – don’t! We physios will still try to help you to get back to your dancing feet – although it’s going to take a lot more work and effort from our side. And yours.
How can Physiotherapy help?
Here are some of the ways:
Recover from an injury and return to dance
Reduce the risk of recurrent or new injuries
Train in an optimum and safe manner
Improve your technique and form in dancing
Achieve more things with your body with less effort
Based on our experience dealing with professional dancers and seeing time after time the repetitive injuries they sustain, we have come up with a screening program specifically for dancers so as to help recognize and prevent risks of injuries.
Our Dancers’ Risk Assessment (DRA) program not only covers the physical aspect of the body, but we also aim to look at a dancer as a whole by guiding you to self-reflect on other aspects such as your psychological state, nutritional habits and lifestyle in and outside of dance class – which may indirectly contribute to your risk factors.
As a dancer, your body is your tool and it is all that you have. Take care of it well and it will continue to let you dance to your heart’s content! Happy dancing!