Performing Arts Medicine: Preventing Injuries to the Artistic Athlete

Dance competition season is in full swing and just like other sports, there are long, grueling practices with repetition of skills to ensure the perfect athletic performance. Dancers need strength, power, balance, flexibility, functional movement, and core stability to be at the top of their game.

Unlike traditional athletes, dancers are also artists. To make choreography look effortless and for the audience to understand the performance, a dancer needs to tap into their emotions to make movements an expression of a thought or concept. While this maybe a little too “touchy feely” for some athletes, dancers are not most athletes; they are their own category – artistic athletes.

Like all sports, dance has a specific set of injuries that are more likely to occur. Most dance injuries occur in the lower extremities with ankle and foot injuries being the most common, followed by hip, back and knee injuries. Because dancers are likely to sustain sprains and strains, it is important to have an understanding of injury treatment and the need for rehabilitation.

Basic foot care is a great skillset for dancers to have, especially with the possibility of injuring the skin by dancing barefoot and breaking in a wide variety of snug-fitting footwear. Dance injuries are also likely to be caused by overuse due to the sport’s repetitive nature and are more likely to occur during practice than during a performance.

Many factors can increase the likelihood of becoming injured. External factors that can affect risk of injury include: overtraining, poor technique, performance space (floor type, rake or the degree the stage floor slants, temperature, lighting, and stage conditions), costume, props, and shoe type and fit. While some of these external factors can be addressed (such as correctly fitted footwear), others may not be able to be changed (like the rake). Personal factors that impact injury potential include: foot type, body alignment, joint stability, and strength. Improving strength, balance, and control are important to decreasing the likelihood of injuries.

In our sports medicine clinic, we recognize that dancers are like every other athlete and yet have unique needs. Realizing this commonly overlooked group needs specialized care, we have created a Performing Arts Medicine program (PAM). The PAM team includes physicians, registered dietitian, athletic trainers, and physical therapists with experience and training in treating artistic athletes.

Unlike other athletes, losing a few degrees of motion in an ankle or hip could potentially be career ending by no longer allowing a dancer to go en pointe or to have turnout. With these things in mind, we looked at ways to prevent injuries and offer the following services to keep your dancer safe:

  • Pointe readiness screenings
  • Pointe shoe fitting
  • Injury prevention screenings
  • Injury prevention classes

There is nothing that we want more than to keep all artistic athletes in the spotlight, but if you ever need us, we will be waiting in the wings. For more information about Nationwide Children’s Performing Arts Medicine Program, click here or listen to our PediaCast.

Ashley Minnick, MSAH, AT, ATC
Ashley E. Minnick, MSAH, AT, ATC, received her Bachelor of Science in Education (major: Athletic Training) from Wright State University. She is licensed by the state of Ohio and certified by the Board of Certification as an athletic trainer. She is an active member of the Ohio Athletic Trainers Association, Great Lakes Athletic Trainers Association, and National Athletic Trainers Association. Before joining the Nationwide Children's Sports Medicine, Ashley worked as an athletic trainer at Denison University covering football, women's basketball, women's lacrosse, and men's and women's tennis. Prior to her time with the Big Red, she was an athletic trainer at Ashland University and worked with varsity and junior varsity football, men's and women's swimming and diving, and men's and women's indoor/outdoor track and field. Ashley has also had the opportunity to volunteer with the touring company of Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring The Rockettes.Currently, Ashley is an athletic trainer at New Albany High School. She is interested in athletic training education and has been a guest speaker at colleges and universities in Ohio. Ashley is involved in our Pediatric Sports Medicine Athletic Training Internship Program.

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