A lot of athleticism is required to be a professional dancer. In every genre of dance, the goal is to maintain movement with grace and composure while on stage, never breaking performance. But the audience does not see the pain, grit and rehab behind the scenes, especially when a dancer sustains an injury.
Data shows that the incidence of injury for a professional ballet dancer is 1.06 and 1.46 injuries per 1,000 dance hours in males and females, respectively. Although this may not seem like much, it results in approximately one injury every 5-6 months for a full time professional dancer! Traumatic injuries are more commonly seen in professionals versus amateurs. Of all reported injuries, the vast majority occur in the lower extremity – with the foot and ankle accounting for 14 to 57 percent of injuries.2 These injuries could range from ankle sprains to stress fractures.
It is important to note that injuries are not only plaguing full-time dancers, but part-time dancers too. In fact, one study analyzed injuries sustained by 89 full-time and 57 part-time dancers in the past 12 months. Of the dancers included in this study, 73 percent reported experiencing a significant injury. Both part-time and full-time dancers reported fatigue as the largest contributor to injury.3 Fatigue is not only recognized as high dance load. For example, fatigue for part-time performers could be due to working multiple roles within the performing arts industry as well as working other part time jobs (serving, retail, desk job, etc). Additionally, part-time dancers have unpredictable employment contracts and as a result may under train for their work loads, which can lead to injury.
Although the data shows injuries are common in dancers, it also shows that medical management can make a difference. For instance, one study noted a decrease in injuries from 2.46 per 1000 hours to 0.84 per 1000 hours in dancers as a result of comprehensive medical management.1 While the data was limited, the study still recommended comprehensive medical management to reduce injury rate. Of course there are some barriers to medical care for dancers, such as expenses when paying for individual health care. This is why dancers should take advantage of services like Athletico’s Free Assessment, which allows them to have their pain or injury checked out by a licensed healthcare provider at no cost. After assessing the pain or injury, Athletico’s experts will recommend next steps for the treatment process.
From these gathered studies, it is easy to see why it is important for dancers to have access to quality care. Providing access to preventative care can also reduce cost of injuries for dance companies. Nonetheless, as the prevalence of injuries is high in professional dancers, it is important that those that are injured seek help from medical professionals that are accustom to dance-specific injuries. At Athletico, we have a team of highly trained physical therapists specialized in performing arts that are ready to treat injuries in any former or current dancer. Click here for more information about our performing arts program, or email our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.
1. Allen, N, et al. “Musculoskeletal Injuries in Dance: A Systematic Review.” International Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, vol. 03, no. 01, 2014, doi:10.4172/2329-9096.1000252.
2. Smith, Preston J., et al. “Incidence and Prevalence of Musculoskeletal Injury in Ballet.” Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 3, no. 7, 2015, p. 232596711559262., doi:10.1177/2325967115592621.
3. Vassallo, Amy Jo, et al. “Differences in the Occurrence and Characteristics of Injuries between Full-Time and Part-Time Dancers.” BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, vol. 4, no. 1, 2018, doi:10.1136/bmjsem-2017-000324.