Presentation/article information compiled by Moira Docherty, PT, DPT & Robert Tsai, PT, DPT
Injury and the recovery process means lost time, lost training, and time away from a deeply personal, as well as communal, experience.
So how can "prehab" help? What exactly is "prehab" and what does "prehab" entail? , where does one even start?
Prehab is assisting dancers and performers to take active steps to address known injury-risk factors by building awareness, staying a step ahead, and preparing the dancer to minimize dance injury risk.
If you are a young dancer, dance parent, or dance studio owner, you know first hand that dance is a physically and mentally demanding experience - no matter what age, who, or where you are.
Just like an athlete, the dancer places themselves under immense amounts of physical and mental stress.
Just like an athlete, the dancer requires copious amounts of preparation.
Just like an athlete, injuries and managing injuries will be part of the career.
Like athletes, dancers must train to dance, and not just rely on dancing alone to train.
Dance-related injuries commonly occur during high cardiovascular activity and often are related to periods of fatigue. Most injuries in dancers occur in the lower extremities (primarily in the ankle and knee) which is not surprising, as dancers may perform upwards of 200 jumps per 90 minute class.
Common factors related to dance-injury include:
- Lack of warm-up
- Poor alignment of body weight
- Poor core strength
- Weak eccentric strength of leg muscles
These factors, including many others, can be successfully addressed with proper guidance and comprehensive, individually designed prehab programs.
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Periods of rapid growth bring changes to the young dancer. Muscular imbalances or decreased coordination and balance are not uncommon.
Many myths associated with weight/resistance training continue to permeate our community, such as fear of developing bulky muscles and damage to growth plates. These myths have been repeatedly disproved through extensive studies in the youth population, and young dancers stand to benefit from resistance training methods to establish strong physical foundations during periods of growth to assist in their artistic development.
**For in-depth information and recommendations, see our article Resistance Training and the Young Dancer
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Social media and popular culture have also propelled many dancers into the media spotlight, exposing them to the physical and mental stressors early on.
Preparation and education are now more important than ever to ensure that young dancers:
1) know how to appropriately prepare themselves,
2) are aware of their limits, and
3) at the same time aware of their potentials and how to maximize their performances without sacrificing their health, safety, or longevity as a movement artist.
As dancers seek to prolong their careers, it is important for dancers to realize that health and wellness is not a trend, but an active choice to make in order to dance as long as possible.
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Prehab for a ballet dancer, is going to look significant different than prehab for a bboy or bgirl.
Prehab for the dancer can take the form of:
- Education through workshops/lectures.
- Individualized or group prehab programs to address dance-related risk factors
- Consistency and accountability during and after physical therapy for a past injury.
Additionally, "Working on your core" or "building core strength" is something often heard in the dance community, but "core" activation will be different for jumping, landing a jump, turning, and performing floor work.
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Through DANCE|PREHAB, perhaps we can help you to develop a greater sense of purposeful preparation to eliminate a little bit of the uncertainty that comes with such a mentally and physically demanding artform. Move through your artistic endeavors with trust and faith in your preparation and capabilities.
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- MItchell, Siobhan. The Growing Dancer: Physiological Challenges. 2018, https://www.onedanceuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/One-Dance-UK-The-growing-dancer-Physiological-challenges-by-Siobhan-Mitchell.pdf. Accessed 2 Apr 2020
- Kinney, S. et al. (2018) The Effect of Physical Therapist Involvement in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Youth and Adolescent Dancers’ Injuries. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 22(2), 81-83