Dancers have a very unique career, in that their body significantly directs their career path. Professional dancers place a significant amount of physical and mental stress on their body due to the demands of their career. With classes, rehearsal, performances, tours and competitions, it is no surprise there is a high prevalence of injury among the dance community (5, 20). In fact, the incorporation of strong artistic (5), aesthetic (4) and perfectionistic (13, 14) components contribute to a unique distribution and risk of injury in dancers (20). However, while risk assessment of full-time professional dancers has been well evaluated, part-time dancers are less understood. Yet, part-time employment is more common among the dance industry. For instance, Australia previously reported approximately 1135 professional dancers and choreographers (2), but less than 200 had full-time contracts (3, 20). A 2018 study decided to investigate and compare the characteristics of injury in both full-time and part-time dancers.
Let’s Take a Look at Their Science
This study utilized data from Safe Dance IV (19) – a cross-sectional survey of full-time and part-time professional dancers in Australia from 2016-2017. Professional dancers of any style were included in the study. Professional dancers were any persons over 18 years old, who received compensation to work, rehearse or perform as a dancer for a combined period of at least 3 months. Full-time dancers were defined as working at least 48 weeks out of the year, while part-time dancers worked less than 48 weeks. (20)
Survey questionnaires were distributed to small and large dance companies and organizations. Each questionnaire included components on demographics, dance training, current dance working environment, injury occurrence in the last 12 months, type and sites of injury, possible contributing factors, injury management, return to dance and healthcare access. (20)
So, What Did They Find?
Results were assessed from 146 surveys (89 full-time and 57 part-time dancers). Part-time dancers were more likely to have more than one active role in the dance community. Typically, part-time dancers spent less time training during non-performance weeks, compared to full-time dancers. That being said, both full-time and part-time dancers participated in additional exercise routines.
Seventy-three percent of all assessed dancers experienced at least one dance-related injury – full-time dancers experiencing more. Take a look at the first table below (Table 1) describing the most significant dance-related injuries found in this study. We see part-time dancers more often suffered from chronic inflammation. However, a sprain was the most common injury for full-time dancers. For both full and part-time dancers, over 50% of reported injuries were a result of overuse. Fatigue being noted as the most common contributing factor.
Table 1. Type of most significant dance-related injury of the past 12 months in full-time and part-time dancers.
|Injury type or site||
Percent injured part-time dancers (n=36)
|Percent injured full-time dancers (n=71)|
|Fracture (chronic and stress)||14.3||10|
|Pinched nerve and/or disc issue||8.6||10|
The chart below (Figure 1) describes the most significant areas of injury for both full-time and part-time dancers. In looking at the chart, we see full-time dancers experienced a higher percent of injury at the ankle. Whereas, part-time dancers experienced the highest percent of injury at the hip.
Figure 1. Region of most significant dance related injury in the past 12 months in full-time and part-time dancers.
What Does This Mean For Full-time and Part-time Dancers?
In dance, your body is the most important tool for your job. Dancers experience high levels of physical activity and injuries come with the territory. However, proper training and recovery can help prevent injury (20) and keep dancers on the stage. This study saw a much greater percent of hip injuries among part-time dancers compared to full-time (20). This could be a result of poor training (20). Major Australian dance companies have implemented a hip strength and stability program which has successfully reduced time loss for hip related injuries (10).
Overall, this study demonstrates injuries are a common occurrence no matter the degree of dancer (20). Dance activity, whether in large or small volumes, has been shown to have a high prevalence of injury (6, 7, 9, 11, 17, 18, 20). This study suggests fatigue may play a significant role in the risk for injury in dancers (20). Part-time dancers must learn to juggle multiple dance roles, and most often a supplemental career, not to mention a personal life and a healthy workout routine. Full-time dancers also juggle intense training, performance and touring load (14, 20). If there is not an appropriate amount of time allotted for recovery, dancers could easily experience fatigue and overtraining syndrome (14, 20). Studies have suggested lack of rest may stem from dancers not wanting to lose various dance opportunities or cancel performances (16, 20). For insightful career advice, take a look at this link on how to better cope or build your professional dance career.
While retrospective self-reporting, such as the one used in this study, has been noted to provide an adequate level of accuracy (8), there is still room for bias or human error. Fear in reporting an injury does occur in the dance community, therefore, we should consider these findings with care. This study did not consider psychological factors during assessment. Other research has suggested psychological factors, such as coping skills (15), stress and lack of social support (1), and other work stressors (12) can have an impact on experienced injuries by dancers. Dance psychologist, Dr. Peter Lovatt, suggested 5 mental strategies dancers can utilize to significantly improve their performance and improve their mental health.
This study had a limited representative sample. This study assessed reports from only Australian dancers who responded and completed the questionnaire. A broader region and larger sample size may have altered the study’s findings.
To sum up, it is important for a dancer, or any athlete, to properly train and monitor their body. Sportavida tracking provides testing that allows you to monitor your fatigue and muscle stress wherever you are. With a simple saliva sample, you can send off your body’s information at any given time and Sportavida will send a detailed report discussing how your body is reacting to your training, performances and overall lifestyle. Knowing how much and when your body is fatiguing or feeling over-worked, allows you to train and perform smarter – reducing your risk for injury.
Thank you for reading! I hope you feel more informed. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave a shout out!
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