PROACTIVITY, PREPARATION, & OPPORTUNITY
Presentation/article information compiled by Moira Docherty PT, DPT & Robert Tsai PT, DPT
Pursuing a dance career inevitably means managing injuries, as you continue to challenge the boundaries of what it means to be an artist. 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.
- Curated for parents, educators, and studio owners who are interested in helping to prolong their dancers' career.
- Information on - dance related injury rates and causes, and how a proactive prehab program can help to decrease injury risk.
THIS PRESENTATION FOR PARENTS/TEACHERS/STUDIO OWNERS WILL COVER:
- Current dance injury research
- Safe training concepts for the young dancer
- Current culture and "prehab"
- How to begin thinking about "prehab"
- What can "prehab" look like?
Dance-Related Injuries and the Artist-Athlete
When talking about dance injuries and decreasing risk of injury, we must recognize the dancer as an artist-athlete.
- 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 and decreased with proper guidance and comprehensive, specifically designed prehab programs.
Young dancers and safe training methods
Periods of rapid growth bring changes to the young dancer, both physically and mentally, and muscular imbalances or decreased coordination and balance are not common. However, during these periods of growth is when dancers experience an increased intensity in training, which exposes the dancer to increased injury risk.
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
Our current dance culture and "prehab"
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.
Our current dance culture has continued to shift towards earlier specialization, meaning that younger dancers are entering professional life at a much younger age than in previous years. Social media and popular culture have also propelled many dancers into the media spotlight, exposing them to the physical and mental stressors early on.
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.
What can a "prehab" program look like for a dancer?
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.
Through all of these avenues, prehab for the dancer ultimately must be specific to them and their dance activity. Prehab for a ballet dancer, is going to look significant different than prehab for a bboy or bgirl.
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.
The key to successful prehab will be whether or not the dancer can be address the dance injury risk-factors specific to them.
When preparation meets opportunity...
For any dancer, there are a myriad of factors when it comes finding their personal place in the dance world. Through prehab, we can develop a greater sense of purposeful preparation and eliminate a little bit of the uncertainty that comes with such a mentally and physically demanding artform, as the dancer continues to pursue their careers with passion and without worry.
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