Most past research towards injury in dance has been focused on classical ballet. In recent years, more research is becoming available about contemporary dance. Of interest, is the incidence, risk factors & preferred management of injuries for contemporary dancers. Research (Shah et al., 2012) has recently been conducted on 184 professional contemporary dancers in the USA finding an 82% incidence of injury in a 12 month period. Most dancers experienced between one & seven injuries. 40% of injuries were in the foot & ankle, 17% in the lower back & 16% to the knee. The research showed that the most common treatment sought by professional contemporary dancers is physiotherapy & 6% of dancers required surgical treatment, most commonly to the knee. Most dancers did not consult a doctor, the most common reason being ‘I did not think a doctor would be helpful’.
According to this research, Pilates is the most common form of conditioning that contemporary dancers participate in. The majority of dancers in the study also trained in other genres of dance. Interestingly, those studying ballet were found to have a statistically higher number of injuries.
Perhaps this finding is related to the lack of floor work & deep squatting to get in & out of the floor that ballet technique does not offer to prepare for contemporary performance demands. Some of the perceived causes of injury to this population identified in descending order are -
- The demands of the role
- Self pressure to excel
- Demands from the choreographer
- Pain & fatigue
- Inadequate warm up
- Personal training and lifestyle habits
- Floor condition
- Stage characteristics (p.20, Shah et al., 2012)
There were also reports of shoe type playing a minor role in injury occurrence.
My interpretation of this research is to aim to avoid knee injuries for they may lead to surgical management, an expensive intervention potentially requiring longer recovery times. Perhaps this can be done by utilising conditioning & dance techniques that involve appropriate deep squatting techniques. This research has also shown, although not statistically significant, that for the dancers that train in one technique, Limon & Horton contemporary techniques have lower injury rates than other techniques ie. Graham & Cunningham. Although in Australia the specific techniques are not so much followed now, perhaps the hinges used in Horton technique in particular are of use to train the eccentric strength required to get in & out of the floor.
Any dancer performing contemporary work should train specifically for the choreographic demands. Ballet dancers should be wary when contemporary movement is placed on their differently trained bodies.
Reference - Shah, S., Weiss, DS., & Burchette, RJ. (2012). Injuries in professional modern dancers: Incidence, risk factors, and management. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science
, 16(1): 17-25.
Written by Melanie Fuller – Physiotherapist Grad Cert MSk Phty, M Phty, B Ex Sci, Adv Dip PA (Dance), ARAD. Melanie is a Physiotherapist at Pondera Physiotherapy & Pilates in West End, Brisbane. Melanie regularly consults in dance physiotherapy, she is company physio to Expressions Dance Company & was company physio to Legally Blonde & Mary Poppins musicals. She is currently completing her Masters in Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy.