Why do dance/ sports injuries happen?

Dance is a physically demanding activity. Dancers perform repetitive movements for several hours a day. Studies have shown that dancing five hours a day or longer leads to an increased risk of stress fractures and other injuries.

On top of the intensive training, many dancers get little time to recover between the sessions and have no “offseason.” Restrictive diets and unhealthy body weights may also contribute to dance injuries.¬†Proper nutrition¬†is important for dancers of all ages.

Child foot is resting on blue massage balancing cushion. Balance exercises on balance cushion concept

How much rest should a dancer get?

While many experts stress the importance of proper rest, there are no specific guidelines on the frequency and amount of rest. However, we know that dancing five hours a day or longer is linked to an increased risk of injury. It is also known that intense activity leads to microdamage, which peaks in recovery 12 to 14 hours after a workout. So it would make sense to take the next day off after a high-intensity activity. Dancers should work at their highest intensity a couple of times per week and then take at least two days off, preferably in a row. Also, a three- to four-week period of rest after the season is ideal for recovery.

What are my treatment options for injury?

It depends on the type of injury, your level as a dancer, and many other factors. For example, for traumatic injuries like ankle sprains, your doctor may recommend RICE, joint protection, and physical therapy. For stress fractures you may need to limit weight on your foot by using crutches, wearing a leg brace or walking boots. Surgery is typically used as the last resort. It is best to discuss your treatment options with a doctor who specializes in dance injuries. And if you are working with a physical therapist, make sure he or she is experienced in treating dancers. A big part of physical therapy is correcting the training technique that led to the injury. Otherwise, you risk hurting yourself again by making the same mistake.

What should be in the first aid kit for dance injuries?

Your regular first aid kit might already have many of the essentials for handling a medical emergency. However, when it comes to common dance injuries, you may want to include a few additional items, such as

  • Instant cold pack
  • Pre-wrap and athletic tape (if qualified providers are available to apply)
  • Elastic bandages (to be used only for compression, not support while dancing)
  • Crutches
  • Topical pain reliever

Should I ice or heat after a injury?

If it’s a sudden injury, it’s best to apply ice first to reduce swelling and inflammation. RICE treatment is a common approach that involves rest, ice, compression and elevation. After a few days, you can switch to heat to increase blood flow to the area and promote healing. However, every person is different. If you feel that ice helps you better than heat, then there is nothing wrong with continuing to ice. But be careful not to ice before dancing or stretching, because you want those muscles to be warmed up to prevent re-injury.