Dance injuries are a terrifying thought for dancers and their parents alike. We generally don't expect that dance related injuries could happen to us, but in reality dancers get hurt just like other athletes. In fact, 90% of dancers experience injury at some point.
In fact, dancers can be more susceptible to certain types of injury than other athletes, because dancers are required to perform strenuous repetitive movements. This causes stress to bones and joints, strain to muscles, and creates sustained pressure on the arches in our feet.
An Interesting Dance Injury Statistic:
Only 35% of dance injuries are from a “traumatic incident”
A traumatic incident is a dance injury that is sudden and unexpected.
If only 35% of dance injuries are traumatic incidents, then that means that the rest of them, almost 2 out of 3 dance injuries (65%), happen slowly over time. Non-traumatic injuries are from repetitive stress and strain and can have serious long-term consequences.
Stress & Strain Dance Injuries
Called 'Repetitive Strain Injuries', these are dance injuries that happen a little bit at a time until there is pain and injury. Many repetitive strain dance injuries are predictable and preventable.
For example, increased “underfoot pressure” is a strong predictor of injuries in active young people, especially dancers.
Underfoot pressure in dance
In dance, underfoot pressure is common, since:
- Ballet landings are the equivalent of 4 to 13x body weight on the feet.
- Hard floor impacts increase the risk of injury and inflammation.
4 Common dance injuriesAmongst the predictable & preventable dance injuries, here are 4 common ones:
What’s worse is that once a dancer has had an injury, he or she is more likely to injure themselves the same way again. This is why older, adolescent dancers account for the majority of injuries in ballet schools. In some dance companies, 67%-95% of professional dancers are injured on an annual basis.
Any serious injury to the feet or knees may end a dancer’s career, or worse, result in a life-long chronic issue.
How do I know if my pain is an injury?
Good question, as many dancers experience some pain which is natural when exerting ourselves. How do we know if the discomfort we feel is beyond what we should accept as part of natural exertion?
Johns Hopkins Medicine suggests this list of red flags for knowing when you've experienced an dance injury:
- Pain that wakes you up at night
- Pain that is present at the start of an activity
- Pain that increases with an activity
- Pain that makes you shift your weight or otherwise compensate your movements
Contributing Factors to Dance Injury
Having a ‘No Pain - No Gain’ attitude doesn’t mean we shouldn't protect ourselves. Sure dancers need to work hard, but hard work means extra care is needed on our vulnerable parts. For dancers, that means the feet and ankles.
5 factors that contribute to foot and ankle injury:
- Impact (Jumps/Landings)
- Cold hard floors
- Repetitive motion
- Strain (excessive force/tork/stretching)
- Under-arch pressure
Dance Injury Prevention
If you intend to dance for a long time, then dance injury prevention is something you must keep in mind.
Dance Injury Prevention is the Best Treatment
Since a history of injury increases chances of future injuries, a dancer's best way to approach injury is to attempt to prevent it. Pay attention to your body and protect yourself from the first injury before it happens.
5 main areas of attention for preventing dance injuries (source):
- training (including muscular strength, power, and endurance; plyometrics; agility; balance; joint stability; and dance-specific technique)
- equipment (including footwear and surfaces)
- regulatory aspects (rules and regulations governing dance)
- self-care prevention and treatment methods
Think about each of these and consider whether you have the tools and habits in place to take the best care of yourself when dancing.
The Benefits of Quality Protective Dancewear
Factor #3 is 'equipment', and that includes dance footwear. Something we know a lot about at Inspirations. Inadequate dance footwear is a contributing factor for many dance injuries. Quality dance footwear is the dance equivalent of a football helmet or hockey pads.
Quality dance footwear provides:
- Protection for the athlete/dancer
- Support for their bones/joints/muscles
- A reduction of impact energy
- Improved performance
Quality dance footwear minimizes impact and maximizes support, preventing fatigue and allowing the dancers to move with superior form.
Low quality footwear, poorly fitted dance footwear, or, no dance footwear at all, are contributing factors of injury to dancers.
Feel-the-floor (dancing barefoot)
Many dancers are choosing to dance without footwear so they can ‘feel the floor’. We get it. When dancers choose to ‘feel the floor’ by eliminating footwear, it can feel more natural.
When dancing in bare feet, dancers lose:
- Cushioning muscle support
- Skeletal shock absorption
- Muscle elasticity / heat
Unfortunately choosing to go barefoot is short-sighted if it leads to knee, ankle or foot issues. The good news is that there are new innovative products to help dancers get the best of the barefoot dance experience while taking care to protect their bodies from injury.
New Dance Footwear Innovations for Dancers
Capezio's Arch & Extend helps train arch muscles.
The Apolla Shock is for dancers who want to feel barefoot, or the comfort of a sock, while maintaining the support of a dance shoe.