What is Dance Medicine?

Do you know or love a dancer? If so, this article is for you! 

Dance is a beautiful sport which combines athleticism and artistry. While there are many different styles, all forms of dance have their own specific physical demands, resulting in unique types of injuries.  Unlike many traditional sports, whose foundation is in skilled performance of normal human biomechanics (such as running, kicking, throwing, etc.), dance is different. Dance is rooted in aesthetics rather than a specific physical endpoint, such as winning a race or scoring a goal. Dance is unique in that it is meant to be beautiful and enjoyable for the audience, which often means the body must be trained to perform remarkable feats for the purpose of entertainment. Despite all the physical demands, repetition, and skill required to dance, it is the goal of the dancer to “make it look easy.” Because of this, we don’t think of how much goes into what a dancer is able to present to the audience during a performance and how often injuries occur.

Dancers experience significant demands in atypical planes of motion, which requires extreme physical demand by its athletes, while simultaneously finding balance of dramatic flexibility paired with control of the human body through strength and balance. This often results in injuries the body isn’t designed to typically withstand. For example, there is nothing natural about dancing “en pointe” (on the toes), kicking one’s leg up by the ear, nor dancing with “turnout” – the rotation of the feet outward in order to give the audience a better view of the movements. These skills can be dangerous when done incorrectly, especially with the repetition required to master the movement. These skills can also result in muscular imbalances that can predispose the dancer to more typical injuries as well. 

Dancers are also artists which requires them to be experts of musicality, timing and precision. As any performing artist has experienced, learning these skills takes practice. Even more so when working with a partner or in groups as most dancers often do. Due to hours and hours of repetition, paired with extreme biomechanical demands of the craft, dancers experience injuries at a higher rate of incident compared to other sports. A 2008 study from Wolverhampton University found that 80% of dancers experience an injury annually compared to 20% of rugby or football players.   

It is important the sports medicine team understands these demands and how to optimize the dancer to both treat and avoid injury. Small adjustments to biomechanics can be the difference between a successful performing season and a stress fracture. Understanding dance medicine helps to serve an overwhelming number of youth athletes in the United States. 

According to the Journal of Dance Medicine and Science (Bronner and Worthen), the number of children enrolled in dance is estimated to reach up to 10.4 million annually. By comparison, there are 6.7 million kids enrolled in Little League Sports annually (www.littleleague.org). That’s a lot of active kids! 

It is my goal to provide the best care to all athletes. As a former dancer, I have a unique background to safely tailor a treatment plan, focusing not only on rehabilitation, but also prevention to keep you or your dancer safe to enjoy this beautiful sport and art!     

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