Tackling Overuse Injury
Overuse Injury and Dance have regularly become synonymous in the Dance Science Literature and lately popular in blog posts from "Instagram Dance Teachers".
Yet addressing the problem at source or at least understanding the problem and the nuances of these injuries are somewhat overlooked due to a generalised approach to these injuries.
When looking at what has been "overused" and what has led an individual to be "overloaded" we must be aware that these chronic injuries occur in a situation where "generally" the demand on the Dancer outweighs the capacity of the Dancer. Subsequently leading to musculoskeletal structures reacting adversely to a given stimulus.
However, Capacity of a Dancer varies within a DAY, DAY to DAY and beyond to more long term measures of Capacity. A Dancer may simply not be well conditioned to cope with a certain volume of jumps at their given level. Or on a micro level, a Dancer may be subject to fatigue and therefore cannot handle the volume of jumps on that particular day or within that particular week.
A holistic approach to these injuries is necessary and goes beyond the scope of one article however we can elude to the factors that contribute to Dancer being able to withstand a given demand.
Nutrition Status, Sleep Levels, Hydration, Pre-requisite Coaching, Muscular Endurance, Maximal Strength, Proper Technique and last but not least Hormonal variations/menstrual cycle considerations.
Simple solutions that are sometimes unpopular with budding young Dancers include: Lighter Days, Days without impacts, Individualised Conditioning, Cross Training, Revision of Basic Technique, Appropriate Sleep Times.
All of the above are well documented in their contribution to the all round and robust Dancer.
When it comes to assessing the strength capacity of a Dancer and their readiness for impacts, We can use combinations of gold standard tests that are reliable and valid. Isometric Strength testing has been shown to be a safe and effective way of establishing the physical characteristics of the lower limbs. Primarily in Ballet we have looked at Single Leg Squat Strength characteristics and the same for a seated calf test.
To better understand these key patterns and their contributions to better jumping we are also examining the relationship between variables of strength and variables in a landing test on force plates both turned in and turned out. Data to come soon, about whether there is a relationship between strength and landing qualities. However where by poor landings occur there is great hypotheses that increases in strength will align with a greater ability to cope with higher landing forces and or attenuate the forces upon landing.
Single Leg Squat and Single leg rise capacity and volume could be key players in solving the overuse issue as it relates to the lower limbs and impacts. Alongside this a graded approach to Increasing ground contacts should be considered by teachers to allow Dancers to build capacity through physiological adaptation.