Jodie is back with our next guest publication!
Dancers may, more often than not, suffer an injury during their training or professional career.
“I’m injured… what can I do?” is the second most common question I get asked after “when can I get back to dancing?”
As frustrating as an injury can be, it could be a blessing in disguise and dancers should try to shift it to a positive. Not dancing because of an injury allows the opportunity to look at or study other aspects of your dance training, outside of the physical context of dance.
This could include:
Learning about nutrition
Researching your injury and discuss management with Medical Practitioners or Teacher,
Chance to work on drama or singing exams
Set new goals or aims – both short term and long term
Work on weaknesses.
The approach of what you can do while injured will depend on the location and severity of your injury. For example, if you have injured your ankle and have been advised to not weight bare, jumping exercises in the centre will not be safe practice, but floor barre or sitting on a chair to the side of the studio performing the arm movements for the same exercise is safe practice.
Possible Class Modifications
Working in pain-free range
If you have a Medical Practitioner on site this will be determined following assessment. Depending on the severity of injury working the injured limb with active recovery and an exercise-based programme may be beneficial compared to complete rest. If that is the case you will still be able to partake in class but working in a pain-free range. An example of this could be not working into a grande-plié if you have a knee injury but working to demi-plié because that range doesn’t reproduce your pain.
Floor barre OR Sitting on chair or stability ball performing exercises to the side
This is a great technique to use as an alternative in ballet class. Organisations such as the Royal Academy of Dance and other companies teach Floor Barre as a concept for teachers to implement into class. If you are unable to weight bear because of your injury you may be able to perform some exercises performing floor barre. This means you can still partake in class but without the load through the injured area. If it is suitable for you, floor barre will be discussed with you by your Medical Practitioner but also will have input from your Dance Teacher who will be able to assist in class.
Visualisation is an interesting topic, but one that I will only touch on slightly in this blog. It should really be practiced even when fully fit and healthy as research suggests that visualisation sends brain signals to the muscles that would be used during that particular skill and is a great tool during rehabilitation to envisage you performing a skill.
For class observation, you will need permission from your teacher. Class observation could be as simple as watching the class but to get more out of it, make notes or use the observation as part of your teaching practice (if you are taking teaching qualifications). If the teacher is happy for you to assist you could assist with music, making notes for them or filming parts of the class.
Replace technique class with Strength & Conditioning OR Rehab
The sessions you would have with Strength & Conditioners, Sports Therapists/Rehabilitators or Physiotherapists will highlight any asymmetry, lack of strength or length in tissues and these will be addressed to benefit your dance practice but it will also rehabilitate the injured site to prepare it for return to class and performance.
By using such Practitioners it takes away the stress from dancers to make programmes to follow and to manage the load of the injured site. It also aims to change the way of dancers thinking from “no pain, no gain” or dancing through pain that may cause further damage to ‘how can I use my training and rehabilitation to get stronger upon my return.’
To summarise, if you are injured during your dance training, it isn’t the end of the world – although at the time it will feel like it, there will probably be frustrations and tears, but this can be rationalised by applying some of the bullet points above to channel your thoughts to another aspect of your training alongside your rehabilitation programme.
If you are at a Dance College that has a Strength & Conditioning Coach, Sports Therapist, Physiotherapist or another Medical Practitioner you should be using them; get as much information from them as you can about your body, programmes to prevent injury, or simply asking where your hamstrings attach from!