NORFOLK-Dancing may not seem like it's hard on your body, but for professionals or children taking classes, the repetitive practice of movements that require extreme flexibility, strength, and endurance make them prime candidates for overuse injuries.

CHKD Sports Medicine physician and Director of the Dance Medicine program Dr. Joel Brenner has more information on dance injuries and prevention.

Tip 1: Dancers are exposed to a wide range of risk factors for injury. What causes dance injuries?
-The most common issues include: Fatigue, type of dance, frequency of classes, rehearsals and performances, skill level, duration of training, environmental conditions such as hard floors, costumes and shoe type.
-Training oversights (too much, too often)
-Injuries that they have sustained in the past as well as nutritional deficiencies can also put them at risk for injuries.

Tip 2: Across the whole spectrum of dance there is little doubt that the vast majority of injuries are the result of overuse rather than trauma.
-Dancer's injuries tend to occur most commonly in the lower extremities (foot/ ankle) followed by the spine. It is activity specific: ballet correlates with more foot/ ankle problems and modern dance more with spine, hips and upper extremities.
-The (foot/ankle/lower leg area) lower extremity is vulnerable to a wide range of injuries, including stress fractures, tendon injuries, sprains, and strains. Studies suggest injuries occur more often among lesser skilled dancers when compared to elite and most often among adolescent dancers.
-The medical professional plays a significant role in not only treating and rehabilitating the injuries dancers incur, but also in preventing them. Dancers respond well to medical providers who respect both the aesthetics and intensity of dance.
-Physical therapists, athletic trainers, and other allied health professionals are very important in the care of the dancer being that 95% are successfully treated with conservative care and they can initiate and facilitate screening sessions for dancers to help identify potential problems and prevent future injuries.

Tip 3: How can dance injuries be prevented?
-Getting and keeping dancers free of injury in a fun environment is key to helping them enjoy a lifetime of physical activity and dance. With a few simple steps, and some teamwork among parents, teachers and medical professionals, dancers can keep on their toes and in the studio with a healthy body.
Dancers should remember a few key things to prevent injury:
-Wear properly fitting clothing and shoes
-Drink plenty of fluids
-Maintain a proper diet
-Resist the temptation to dance through pain
-Pay close attention to correct technique
-Be mindful of the limits of your body and do not push too fast too soon.
-Perform proper warm-ups and cool-down

Parents play a large role in dance injury prevention and should be careful not to encourage their children to advance to higher levels of training at an unsafe rate. Specific to ballet, parents should ensure that the decision to begin pointe training is not made before the child is ready. Strength, range of motion, flexibility, technical ability and age play key roles in determining readiness for advancement to pointe work. Parents, teachers and students should be aware of the importance of pointe readiness screenings.

Medical professionals should be considered a natural part of a dancer's career and sources of insight into staying healthy. A dancer should return after an injury only when clearance is granted by a health care professional.

For more information about the CHKD Dance Medicine program or consultation call CHKD Sports Medicine at 668-PLAY.

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