Injuries are common in dancers and physiotherapists and dance specialists are trying to minimize this. The principal physiotherapist of the Australian Ballet, Sue Mayes, has established 6 injury prevention rules for dancers.
- Calf endurance
Ankle impingement issues and calf tears seemed to be somewhat common among the dancers of the Australian Ballet. Mayes assessed the dancers to get a better picture of their strength and it seemed calf endurance was the only thing that had a relationship to these injuries. Mayes recommended the dancers do 24 slow calf rises on each side during class and saw a significant reduction in the amount of ankle impingement and calf tears in the company as well as 0 surgical interventions for ankle impingements.
- Limit stretching and foam rolling
Mayes said “Your body should be a spring, not a piece of floppy gum. If you spend the day rolling out every part of your body, you’re depleting that spring.” So whilst stretching and foam rolling might feel good, it may not be doing any good in the long run. When introducing the daily calf rises, Mayes also recommended taking out the stretching afterwards, which increases the risk of calf tear if done before jumping. Taking out stretching did not change the range of motion of the ankle and can in fact, restore power in the lower limb.
- Don’t ignore cramping!
Research at the Australian Ballet found among the dancers, foot cramping was common in a dancers lead up to a stress fracture in the foot. Additionally, overly tight pointe shoes can also lead to the problem!
Mayes educated the dancers that it is important not to ignore it as it could be the muscles cry for help that they are not strong enough. It is recommended to get your feet assessed so a modified workload can be established temporarily so the muscles have time to strengthen and avoid injury.
- Be careful during Barre recovery
Mayes found that labral tears of the hip are very common and can occur with and without pain. It is assumed that people that have a labral tear will have pain, but this wasn’t the case. According to Mayes, barre work can aggravate hip injuries if the dancers grip their turnout muscles too much and believes the key to minimizing hip pain is to keep flow and freedom of movement in the hip when warming up. Mayes has created her own free flow hip program for dancers with hip pathologies to do as a warm-up instead of barre, before joining the class for centre work.
- Strengthen the smallest feet muscles
Having strong small feet muscles is important for the body to absorb impact and to give you the spring you need to jump! There is a simple exercise you can do for this:
- Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor
- Wrap a resistance band around your big toe and pull it up whilst keeping your other
toes on the ground
- Pull the toe straight down against resistance and hold for 1-2 seconds and slowly
- Repeat this 10 times
- Once this is easy, try it on your little toe, then the second, third and fourth!
- Keep learning!
It is important for dancers to read all the best up to date research for injury prevention and correct technique for movements. Having a deeper understanding of anatomy and injury prevention helps the dancer understand why they are doing these exercises and how they can better their technique.