Common Dance Injuries & How to Prevent Them
While the debate is up for whether or not dance is considered a “sport,” it goes without saying that the physical demand on a dancer’s body leaves room for injury if done improperly. Dancers require extensive training in strength, mobility, and flexibility to stay safe while they perform. Here are a few of the most common dance injuries and how to prevent them*:
- Neck Strain– While we often think of stretching some of the larger muscle groups before dancing (such as hamstrings, sides, etc.) we often forget about some of the smaller muscles that support us in our movement. For example, the neck muscles. Dancers often experience strain in their neck muscles when head movement is put in choreography and the muscles have not been properly warmed and stretched before repeating the movement over and over again.
- How to Prevent Neck Strain– Include gentle neck stretches into your warm-up regimen- including looking side to side, alternating dropping one ear to its corresponding shoulder, and dropping your chin to your chest and rolling the head shoulder to shoulder. Also think about lengthening the neck muscles instead of collapsing them as you move the head—creating as much space as possible for safe, effective movement.
- Snapping Hip Syndrome- Snapping hip syndrome is an audible popping or snapping sensation made as the tendon at the hip flexor extends. This sensation typically occurs during battements and developpes; and in many cases, starts out as more of a nuisance instead of pain. When snapping hip syndrome is left untreated, the hip can experience painful inflammation.
- How to Prevent Snapping Hip Syndrome- Snapping hip syndrome is caused by weakness and lack of flexibility surrounding the iliotibial band (IT band). Use a foam roller to roll out the hip flexors, quadriceps, and glute muscles as well as add glute strengthening exercises into your training regimen.
- Knee Pain- Knee pain is a very common experience for dancers as jumping and floor work are often part of their technique and choreography. While the common bruise isn’t typically a cause for concern, internal pain such as meniscus tears and patellofemoral pain syndrome (where the kneecap tracks incorrectly due to muscular imbalances in the quads, hamstrings, and calves) require medical attention.
- How to Prevent Knee Pain/Injuries- Always land jumps and leaps in a plie position to absorb the shock from the landing and make sure that the knees stay in line with the direction of the toes in your turn out. Evenly strengthen and stretch the leg muscles on both sides and develop strength in the core and hip muscles. Foam roll hip flexors, quads, and glutes often.
- Ankle Sprains- Ankle sprains are arguably the most common injury a dancer will experience. Ankle sprains are caused by the muscles in the ankle being forced out of their normal range of motion. This can happen from falling, overstretching the muscles in the ankle, or attempting a movement that the ankles have not yet been conditioned for.
- How to Prevent Ankle Sprains- Strengthen and stretch the ankle from all angles (point and flex, lateral movement of the ankle—also known as inversion and eversion), as well as knowing the limits of your personal range of motion. Make sure to warm up your ankles properly before practicing any big dance movements.
*Please note that all of these tips are for injury prevention purposes only. Please listen to your body if you experience pain and see a health care professional if your symptoms are severe.