Dance might be one of the earliest organized activities that young children are exposed to. Besides promoting fun and play, other positive benefits of dance include good posture, musicality and rhythm, confidence, and discipline.
While dance is often safe, it is a demanding activity requiring balance, power, strength, extreme flexibility and endurance, and the determined young dancer may experience injuries at different times in their life. Even after reducing dance time and participation in other sporting activities (e.g. physical education in school), some of these injuries, if left untreated, may lead to other injuries later in life.
According to research, lower limb injuries are the most common in the young dancer. Interestingly, while foot, ankle and knee injuries are predominantly seen in dancers below 12 years old, dancers above 12 years of age start to demonstrate injuries in the hip and spine as well.
So what are the common injuries seen in these areas?
- Foot and ankle
Repetitive jumping and landing can lead to inflammation in joints and tendons of the foot and ankle, causing tendonitis. Other injuries may include stress fractures and ankle sprains.
- Knee Injuries
Certain movements in dance may place more stress on the knee joint which can lead to anterior knee pain, commonly known as patellofemoral pain syndrome. Repetitive bending and jumping may also lead to inflammation of the patellar tendon, also known as Jumper’s knee.
- Hip injuries
The young dancer may report of a clicking or snapping sound in the hip. Known as the ‘Snapping hip syndrome’, this condition occurs when a tendon or muscle moves over the bony prominence of the hip, producing a click that may or may not be painful.
- Spinal injuries
Repetitive jumping and backward bending actions can lead to stress fractures in the spinal column. This type of injury is known as spondylolysis and can be a source of back pain.
What can we do to reduce the incidence of these injuries?
- Monitoring and managing the frequency and total dance hours per week, and getting adequate rest, especially during the lead up to important events such as exams and performances.
- Proper nutrition and ensuring a healthy weight.
- Maintenance of strength and flexibility, especially during puberty. With growth spurt, bones tend to grow faster than ligaments and tendons, and this can lead to increased stress on soft tissues. Immature skeletal bones are also less resistant to shearing and compressive forces than mature adult bones, and hence more susceptible to injury.
- Working on and ensuring good dance techniques can prevent inadequate stress on the body.
- Seeking help early.
If in doubt, a quick visit to a physio clinic in Singapore will be useful in screening for strength, flexibility and range of movements deficits. A physiotherapist can also help the dancer identify potential risks and compensations for specific dance moves and prescribe a tailored exercise programme to overcome any areas of weakness.