Dance injuries rates are significantly statistically higher than that of other sports. A study by Wolverhampton University found professional dancers were more likely to suffer injuries than rugby players.
Statistics show that 80 percent of dancers incur at least one injury a year that affects their ability to perform. Compare this to a 20 percent injury rate for rugby or football players. Whilst not a contact sport or explicitly high-impact, dance training is very intensive.
It is very demanding for even the most conditioned athlete. Here we look at the six main causes of dance injuries.
1. Anatomical Causes
Natural physical limitations are a key factor of not only performing well, but avoiding dance injuries. In particular, poor external hip rotation. As such it is vital the dance student and teacher recognise any potential physical limitations early on. This way the dancer learns to work within their true physical range.
2. Incorrect Technique
When dancers allow their technique to slip they put themselves at a much higher risk of injury. This is often due to fatigue, particularly towards the end of a long tour or performance run. Poor technique is why, typically, injury rates among cast dancers increase throughout the duration of a tour.
Quickly learning and performing new, unknown choreography, regardless of the dancers ability, increases the risk of injury. They have had insufficient time to become accustomed to the movements and fine-tune their technique accordingly.
3. Poor Coaching
As with all sports and athletic disciplines, expert teaching and coaching for the development of technical skills are vital. It is the responsibility of the dance teacher to recognise and react accordingly to, any anatomical weaknesses, physical limitations or early onset of injury.
Furthermore, it is imperative they teach the fundamentals of correct technique. A good coach also advises on lifestyle for optimum health, well-being and incorporates cross-training methods.
4. The Floor
The floor is an extremely important environmental factor to the health and performance of a dancer. Purpose-built dance floors are vital in rehearsal and performance spaces. Floors that are not built for the purpose do not provide sufficient supportive impact.
Sprung wood floors support dynamic movement; reinforced, concrete or non-sprung wood floors create unsupportive and unsustainable support for the joints, which is highly detrimental to the physical health of the dancer in the long term.
Lack of spring in the floor can produce many common dance injuries, notably foot problems, injuries in the lumbar region of the spine, and in the muscles which are associated with take off and landing – mainly the tibia and metatarsals, which may result in stress fractures.
Ambient temperature of rehearsal studio and performance space is of utmost performance in avoiding dance injury. Dancers have to take extra care to not get too cold before or after practice in order to avoid muscular injury. A standard advised temperature for a training and performance space is 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit, and should not be allowed to drop below this range.
6. Excessive Practice
Unavoidably, dancers often adhere to grueling training schedules – a necessary requisite to master the art, and a mainstay of rehearsals for dance productions and tours.
Obviously, this presents a high-risk factor for creating overuse injuries, particularly when a dancer must continue to train at high intensity with an existing injury. Clearly the combination aforementioned factors – excellent physical cardiovascular fitness, diet, training, technique, ability and training environment – greatly reduces the risk of injury under the demanding training schedules of a professional dancer, however, dancers at the top of their game still frequently incur significant injury.