Question:The girls in our dance school seem to be getting injured right and left. Is there any way to screen them ahead of time and prevent some of these injuries?
Answer:There is no standard screening tool for use with dancers at this time. Some of the elite preprofessional ballet boarding schools use various musculoskeletal screening tools. Professional ballet companies have physical therapists who work with the dancers to prevent and manage injuries.
But there are few very studies to support the use of screening to predict risk of injury. Some studies show that female dancers who are amenorrheic (not having a menstrual cycle) are at increased risk of injury.
Other studies report a link between decreased standing leg turnout and lower extremity injury. A more recent study of injured versus uninjured dancers revealed a history of low back pain among the injured dancers.
Dancers in a preprofessional ballet boarding school were screened before beginning the program. Five years later, the researchers looked at injury rates and patterns.
They found very few differences in risk factors between the two groups. The trend was for injuries around the time of increased training for exams, performances, and at the start of the year after the summer break.
Screen your dancers for previous injuries. It may be possible that a program of strengthening, improved motor control, and increased joint proprioception (sense of position) can help prevent future injuries. A physical therapist can help you with this.
Monitor your dancers for overuse and overtraining. Keep a running total of classtime, rehearsal time, and performance time for each dancer. This may help identify who is at risk and when they have reached the maximum tolerance time before injury occurs.Jennifer M. Gamboa, DPT, OCS, et al. Injury Patterns in Elite Preprofessional Ballet Dancers and the Utility of Screening Programs to Identify Risk Characteristics. In Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. March 2008. Vol. 38. No. 3. Pp. 126-136.
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