Why Are Dancers Susceptible To Injury?
Like any athlete, dancers are susceptible to injury because this is a very demanding physical activity. Dancers’ joints perform repetitive movements, sometimes for several hours a day. This can lead to overuse injuries.
Dance gives participants little time for recovery because it is a year-round sport (no off-season). It is also a single-sport specialization, which adds more strain and stress on young bodies.
Plus, a lot of dancers have restrictive diets to maintain their physiques, which can also lead to dance-related injuries. Due to those diets, dancers often lack optimal protein intake and have inadequate caloric intake and limited dairy intake; that lack of dairy in the diet leads to lower Vitamin D and calcium in their systems.
All these factors contribute to why dancers are susceptible to injury.
How To Reduce The Risk Of Injury When Dancing?
This is something our pediatric orthopedists are often asked. We recommend that dancers:
· Always get proper rest. This goes for any sport. Taking a day off after a strenuous performance is wise, as is taking a month off from dancing after an intense season.
· Limit high-intensity training to a few times a week with a day or two off in a row.
· Do cross-training exercises to focus on core and hip strengthening. Include some cardio workouts as well, such as biking, running, or swimming.
· Wear proper shoes.
· Do sufficient warming up and cooling down.
Recognize signs of impending overuse injury. This is usually pain that increases with activity or pain that is present before you start a routine. Have this evaluated early on and take a break, so it doesn’t turn into a more serious injury.
How Do Dance Injuries Occur?
The sport of dance is stressful on the body. Dance injuries occur from the foot hitting the floor, twisting and turning, jumping and landing, and repetitive extension or flexion of muscles. Additionally, as noted above, dance injuries also occur due to inadequate rest, overtraining, and insufficient time for warmup and cooldown.
When asked how to prevent injuries in dance, our pediatric orthopedists recommend light aerobics before dancing, staying warm (sweater or leggings) if the studio is cool, and doing some stretching at the end of your session to help cool down.
Wearing proper shoes for the type of dance you are performing will also help prevent injuries in dance. The dance shoes must provide proper foot support and fit correctly. A note for parents of young ballet dancers: postpone donning those pointe shoes until your child is strong enough for that highly demanding dance activity.
Technique in dance is so important to performance—and to young dancers’ well-being. Make sure your child is practicing proper technique and all the right moves to avoid dance injury. Poor body alignment and improper technique can cause muscle strains and soreness.
As noted above, proper nutrition is essential for growing bodies and supports bone strength. According to Marissa Perrotta of Peaceable Nutrition & Wellness, calcium (in particular for females during their teen and adolescent years), and Vitamin D, are one of the most important nutrients for bone development, which not only reduces the risk of bone fractures today but the risk of osteoporosis as they get older.
Perrotta says milk is not the only source of calcium; non-dairy kinds of milk, like almond or soy are fortified with as much as 40% of our necessary daily calcium intake. Teens and adolescents need 1300 mg of calcium per day. Other calcium sources include cheese, leafy greens like broccoli, kale, and bok choy, tofu, almonds, yogurt, and cottage cheese, to name a few.
In addition, plenty of recovery time between training sessions or after strenuous performances and paying attention to aches and pains that are new also help reduce or prevent dance injuries.
What Are The Most Common Dance-Related Injuries?
The most common dance injuries we see at TPOC are overuse injuries of the lower extremity injuries and lower back injuries.
Common foot and ankle injuries in dance are ankle sprains, stress fractures of the feet and shins, Achilles tendonitis (inflammation of the Achilles tendon due to overuse), and knee pain from turning, twisting, and landing.
Another ankle injury we see is ankle impingement. This is also due to overuse when dancers dance on their toes. This causes pain and some compression of structures in the ankle.
Other common dance-related injuries are hip injuries (tendonitis, impingement, and labral tears).
When Is It Time To See An Orthopedist?
If you or your child recognizes something is wrong and there may be an overuse injury, don’t delay when it comes to seeing an orthopedist.
One sign of dance-related injury—and a signal that it is time to seek pediatric orthopedic treatment—is when your child’s pain is present before starting a routine and it worsens as the routine continues. Another sign of a dance-related injury is if your young dancer must adjust movements or posture to minimize the pain.
If symptoms persist, the pain worsens, or your child experiences pain at rest or with normal activity, seek an evaluation for pediatric orthopedic treatment.
In our office, we will first take a thorough history, ask about nutrition and for females, menstrual history (which can be affected by inadequate diet and strenuous exercise). Your pediatric orthopedist will take an X-ray to look for any abnormalities in the bones, cartilage, or alignment. When we suspect a dance injury that isn’t visible on the X-ray, advanced imaging such as MRI may be needed to properly diagnose the issue.
How To Treat Dance-Related Injuries
Regarding how to treat dance injuries, our orthopedists first recommend that you stop your activity, rest, apply ice, elevate the extremity, and use gentle compression (ACE bandage or compression sleeve). Do this for 24-48 hours before you come into our office. We also advise parents to make sure their child is building rest days and cross-training into their schedule to minimize the effects of the sport.
Treatment for dance-related injuries may include:
· A period of rest, anti-inflammatory medications
· Dietary changes and enhancement to support healthy bones and muscles
· Physical therapy to address muscle imbalance and provide cross training
· In cases of a stress fracture or stress reaction, we may recommend immobilization
· For soft tissue injuries, we may recommend treatment with compression
The team at The Pediatric Orthopedic Center are leading specialists in pediatric orthopedic treatment in NJ. We treat young athletes who participate in all sports, including dance.
Call us at (973) 538-7700 or visit our website here right away if your dancer is experiencing pain and a dance-related injury.