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Contemporary Dancing: Is Dancing more Dangerous than Traditional Sports?


Injury, Illness, and Training Load in a Professional Contemporary Dance Company: A Prospective Study

Jeffries AC, Wallace L, Coutts AJ, Cohen AM, McCall A, Impellizzeri FM. Injury, Illness, and Training Load in a Professional Contemporary Dance Company: A Prospective Study. J Athl Train. 2020;55(9):967-976. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-477-19

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Take-Home Message

Professional dancers experience high rates of injury and illness, particularly upper respiratory tract infections. These injuries and medical conditions may be attributed to the high training loads reported in this population.

Summary

Professional contemporary dancers experience high levels of physical training compared to other sports, which is associated with higher injury and illness risk. However, we know little about the injuries among professional dancers due to a wide variety of factors in professional dancing. Hence, the authors examined injuries, illness, and training loads in professional contemporary dancers over one year. The participants included 16 contemporary dancers (7 men and 9 women) from the same dance company in Australia. An injury was defined as one that required medical attention or created an inability to dance for at least one day. The authors collected an array of injury information: type of injury (e.g., new injury, reinjury), mechanism of injury, location, injury occurrence, type of onset, report of cause, contact or noncontact, detailed injury assessment, and exposure status. They also categorized injuries by severity, which depended on the days absent from training. Minor injuries were 1-7 days, moderate injuries were 8-28 days, and severe injuries were 28 days or more. The authors defined an illness based on the Wisconsin Upper Respiratory Tract Infection Survey, which assesses symptoms and impairments. Finally, the authors classified a person’s training load by the session types (e.g., rehearsal, performance) and based on the rate of perceived exertion during a session of training.

The 16 dancers experienced 79 injuries, and most of those injuries resulted in minimal time loss. Everyone had at least 2 injuries that required medical attention. Most of the injuries occurred at the knee, upper leg, or torso. The most common types of injuries were ligament-joint and muscle-tendon injuries. Most injuries that resulted in time loss were to the ankle, upper leg, or torso. The dancers reported 134 illnesses, mostly upper respiratory tract illnesses. The dancers experienced ~4.6 injuries per 1000 hours of training and 9.1 illnesses per 1000 hours of training. There is no consistent evidence that connects training load and injury. However, training load may be a risk factor for illness in professional dancers.

Viewpoints

Professional dancers experience high training loads compared to other typical sports, and as a result, there are incredibly high injury and illness rates. On average, the training load among professional dancers is more than double an elite soccer team’s training load and 57% greater than an Australian football team. This study highlights several crucial factors in contemporary dance. First, these findings demonstrate that professional dancers get injured and sick at high rates. These injury rates suggest that dancers may require more point-of-care medical needs, such as better injury surveillance and modification of training loads. Furthermore, clinicians should advocate for preventative measures and education to prevent injury and illness in dancers. Preventative care may include modifying training, implementing more rest and recovery days, and nutritional guidance. Furthermore, an injury prevention program for elite dancers can reduce the rate of injuries by up to 85% (Vera et al., 2020). Hence, dance companies and clinicians need to work together to implement injury prevention and protect dancers. Contemporary dance is a physically demanding activity and can often lead to injury or illness. These high rates are cause for concern and need to be addressed to protect dancers’ long-term health. However, we need to consider these rates are from a single company of dancers. More research may clarify if these new findings apply to other dance companies. Clinicians need to be proactive and check in with local dance programs. It is crucial to examine these programs and ensure that these dancers are receiving adequate rest and treatment in case of injury and illness. 

Questions for Discussion

What are the most effective ways to prevent injuries in dancers? What holistic approaches to injury prevention are most appropriate in elite dancers?

Written by: Kellie Bixler
Reviewed by: Adam Rosen and Jeff Driban

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