80% of dancers experience major injury during their career (L. Hamilton et al 1989) and 65% of dance injuries are due to overuse (Byhring et al 2002, Garrick et all 1993, Liederbach 1985, Nisson et all 2001, Solomon et al 1995, 1996, 1999, Scialom et al 2006).
Both statistics describe me. I have had at least one injury every year since I became more seriously involved with dance in college. All of them located around the same zones: my hips, feet and knees. The injuries would return in waves. Although anti-inflammatories and ice helped at first, I eventually realized that in order to actually get better I had to start from the ground up. I would need to change my movement strategy and plan of care as a whole.
Coming from France and following graduation, I was off my student health plan and found myself without insurance. I thought I had to rely on myself to make these physical changes but through word-of-mouth I heard about the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries. A year later, I am healed and stronger than I have ever been and now work for the center administratively to help other dancers get the care they need. Although the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries is primarily known for providing care to dancers from all disciplines regardless of their financial constraints, and for being a premium research facility for dance medicine, our team also focuses on providing information on injury prevention for the entire dance community to try to respond to the issue before the fact.
In order to do so, its founders have created an extensive outlet of injury prevention “experiences” catered to groups and individuals with different budgets. The one-on-one injury prevention assessment is a free preventative screening during which an athletic trainer reviews the dancer’s complaints, medical, and nutrition histories and performance during a series of baseline fitness tests. It addresses the dancer from a global perspective, which means, “we analyze the entire body and how it works together for ideal function,” explains Lauren Kreha, ATC. At the end of the assessment, dancers are given a home exercise program to help them grow out of their bad performance habits. Thousands of dancers have had assessments and have rated it 3.9 out of a perfect 4.0 for its effectiveness. I was personally compelled by how knowledgeable my athletic trainer was and felt reassured that my imbalances could be corrected with time through the exercise program I was given at the end of my session.
For larger groups, the Harkness Center also offers Injury Prevention Workshops, Lectures, Functional Capacity Screenings, Ergonomic Evaluations, and Raked Stage Seminars. Kreha insists,“it can be beneficial for dancers who have recently graduated from physical therapy and need help progressing back to full dance, those who are going back into dance after a break, and those who are in peak condition. Everyone will learn something valuable!“ The program is so effective because it has created a bridge between the dance studio and the orthopedist’s office, putting “areas of strength and weakness into a useful context.” When asked if she could establish five rules for the entire dance community to follow that would help reduce the risks of dance-related injury, Ms Kreha responds:
“REST, REST, REST, REST, and REST! Dance and exercise break down tissue and rest is necessary to perform at maximum potential. If I actually had to provide four additional rules, they would be proper nutrition, safe stretching, core strengthening, and regular soft tissue work.“
If you are not a New Yorker, similar programs have been developed in Ohio (The Performing Arts Medicine Program at the Nationwide’s Children’s Hospital) and Boston (Boston Children’s Hospital) among others.
For more information on the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries you can visit their website, www.danceinjury.org or by phone at 212-598-6054.