Dancer Overuse: Ask These 3 Key Questions to Reduce Injuries
Dancer overuse is an unfortunately common issue that can limit both rehearsing and performing. While several factors can contribute, asking 3 key questions can definitely reduce the amount and intensity of dancer overuse injuries.
- Am I going through a growth spurt?
Bottom Line: Longer arms and legs are harder to control without appropriate strength in the shoulder and hip areas. While many pre-teen and teenage dancers want to amp up dance commitments, growth periods may not be the best time for adding more technically demanding routines. Stick to basic movements, build central strength, and once in better control, be more ready to step up the skill requirements.
- Am I still getting over a past injury?
Bottom Line: Trying to push through a past injury that hasn’t fully healed is a recipe for future trouble. Better to take a step back, get proper medical care, and when more healthy, then push ahead with more classes and more intense routines.
3. How old am I?
Bottom Line: Absolutely the best evidence out there to reduce overuse injuries, and very easy to remember. If your age in years is lower than the number of hours of organized dance activities per week, your injury risk goes up in dramatic fashion.
With any dance overuse injury, an accurate diagnosis and step-wise, coordinated return-to-dance plan is essential. Working with medical professionals who understand and appreciate the demands of dance can put you on a path to safer and more satisfying times on the floor.
The ideal return-to-dance plans focus more on “what can a dancer do” than on “what can’t a dancer do.” A solid plan also encourages communication between medical providers, dancers, and their instructors to allow sensible and acceptable participation as an absolute “no dance” policy is rarely needed.
The step-wise coordinated return may include elements such as marking steps, increased use of mirrors and barres, and initially limiting leaps, turns, jumps and partnering. Reviewing technique and making focused corrections can not only aid in the immediate return process, but also reduce the risk of future injury.
Dr. Chris Koutures is a dual board-certified pediatric and sports medicine specialist who practices at ActiveKidMD in Anaheim Hills, CA. He is a team physician for USA Volleyball (including participating in the 2008 Beijing Olympics), the U.S. Figure Skating Sports Medicine Network, Cal State Fullerton Intercollegiate Athletics, Chapman University Dance Department, and Orange Lutheran High School. He offers a comprehensive blend of general pediatric and sport medicine care with an individualized approach to each patient and family. Please visit activekidmd.com or follow him on Twitter (twitter.com/dockoutures).