While injuries are a common occurrence in many sports, injuries affect a very high percentage of dancers in comparison to other athletes. As high as 60-90% of dancers are reported to suffer from an injury during their dance career. The most common injuries affect the knee, and the prevalence of these injuries increases with a dancer’s age and years of practice.
Dancers are required to have good balance, strength and mechanics while landing lots of jumps and coming in and out of spins – as dancers age and their body changes, they must learn to maintain an appropriate landing technique. Often times, female dancers land with their knees collapsing inward and not even knowing it! This places a lot of stress on the middle of the knee for an athlete, and the more this is repeated, the higher the chance of injury.
Dance also requires a lot of flexibility, depending on your body characteristics certain muscles are overworked and others not worked as much. Therefore it is important for dancers to maintain an appropriate training regimen outside of their dancing in order to avoid muscle imbalances in the lower half of the body, which can also lead to injury. Which would include a proper strengthening and mobility program.
There are other mechanics and factors that may play into injury, such as an imbalanced pelvis, or leg length discrepancies.
What types of injuries are the most common?
1. Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) – A common complaint of patellofemoral syndrome is pain in the front part of the knee, more noticeable while the knee is bending in weight bearing (such as squats, or climbing up or down stairs). Patellofemoral syndrome often results from a muscle imbalance; in which the muscles of the lateral part of the leg are stronger than the medial part of the leg, allowing these muscles to pull the kneecap out of alignment.
2. Patellar tendonitis – Patellar tendonitis is also commonly known as “jumper’s knee” – which is a movement dancers perform repetitions on end of. Jumper’s knee occurs when the common tendon of all the quadriceps gets irritated where it attaches to its bony prominence below the kneecap. Jumper’s knee is considered an overuse syndrome, in which the tendon does not have enough time to recover, or too much demand is placed on it. Long-term tendonitis can result in changes to the tendon, including degeneration, and is key to be looked at as soon as possible.
3.Iliotibial band syndrome (ITB) - Pain felt on the outside of the knee may be attributed to ITB syndrome. This pain results with the muscles that attach to the ITB band- such as the hip flexors- are tight or unmatched by opposing muscles, resulting in greater tension through the band, pulling and rubbing over it’s insertion point in the lower knee.
All these injuries can be solved by correcting imbalances, and biomechanics, strengthening the appropriate muscles necessary, mobilizing and perfecting technique. Stay tuned for another blog post examining exercises that can be used to help prevent and manage knee symptoms in dancers.
Written by Tamar Kideckel, MScPT, BAScKIN, Diploma in Fitness & Health Promotion