Here is the breakdown of common ballet dance injuries according to body area
65-80% - leg injuries
10-17% - spine injuries
5-15% - arm injuries
Let us talk about those legs and how to prevent becoming one of the above statistics. Please see the pictures below for illustrations of the following information.
Pelvis, Hip, Knee and Feet Injuries
Pelvic mal-alignment, “Snapping Hip Syndrome”, ligament sprains, muscle strains, tendinosis, stress fractures, osteoarthritis and sciatica just a few of the common results of dancer injury.
Causes: 1) Incorrect turn-out, including rolling of the feet, knee mal-alignment and over-compensation for lack of the natural range of motion (ROM) of your body. See Pictures A-H.
2) Muscle imbalances, in which some muscles are too tight, and/or strong, and other muscles are too flexible and/or weak. This is common due to the fact that ballet is so focused on gaining certain motions of joints (ie turn-out and back extension) that the other muscles get forgotten.
3) Commonly tight/strong muscles include the hip turn-out muscles, outer quadriceps, calves, hip flexors. See Pictures I-K.
4) Commonly flexible/weak muscles include the hip turn-in muscles (you still need these for correct hip joint alignment), inner ROM of the hip flexor, deep stabilizing abdominals, deep buttocks, inner quadriceps. See Pictures L-N.
5) Hereditary musculoskeletal conditions.
1) See a physiotherapist trained in manual therapy for a complete biomechanical assessment to see what you can do to strengthen the weak muscles and stretch the tight muscles. They will also be able to give the education and therapy specific to your body which you will need for optimal performance and injury prevention and management.
2) Be aware of your posture outside of dance class. Habits are formed very quickly and if you are standing and sitting in poor posture, this will carry over to class and create muscle imbalances which will eventually cause injury. Be especially careful not to stand with your weight shifted onto one hip.
3) Don’t be afraid to keep your legs lower in en l’air positions until you gain the strength required to support your leg at higher elevations. We commonly see dancers who have great flexibility, but who are lacking the muscle strength balance to maintain the higher positions without damaging compensation. The deep stabilizing abdominal muscle plays a huge role in this.
4) Know what part of the muscle range to strengthen/stretch within. A common cause for “snapping hip syndrome” is actually due to the hip flexor being weak when your knee is close to your body and when it is far away. The hip flexor is usually strongest in its mid-range position. See Pictures I & L.
5) Always warm- up your muscles first and then stretch them out. You should always stretch after class for sure, but before exercise (after warming up) and after exercise daily is of course better. Hold your stretches for at last 30 seconds X 3 reps, with no bouncing.
6) Know your body’s structural limits regarding over-training and injury management. Did you know that if you begin ballet training before the age of 11 years, your hip can be altered as you grow to have a more turned out position?)
7) Look at the environmental factors affecting your body.
Are you dancing on a good quality “sprung floor” for shock absorption?
Is the floor covering shock absorbing and cleaned properly?
How do your dance shoes fit?
Are you wearing good quality, supportive street shoes?
What is room temperature at your studio?
8) Do some cross-training at least 2 times per week. Swimming, pilates, yoga and biking are just a few of your options.
9) Sometimes joints in our bodies get stiff or mal-aligned for various reasons while others become too mobile. It is important to mobilize/manipulate the stiff/mal-aligned joints (physiotherapist-assisted) and stabilize the hyper-mobile joints (exercise-assisted). Please see your physiotherapist to address these concerns.