How can I stay injury-free during summer intensive?

Summer is coming.

Are you ready?


Moira Docherty of Health En Pointe gives dancers (and their parents) pointers for a healthy & productive summer intensive.


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Prepare for Long Training Days

  • Summer intensives typically involve long training days. A dancer may train up to 6-7 hours/day for 5-6 days/week.

  • Taking daily technique classes, refining your technique, increasing strength/endurance, and taking appropriate rest will set you up for success in your summer intensive program.



Refining Technique

  • Ensure that you are taking weekly technique classes to prepare.

  • Focus on your alignment and stability to avoid misuse injury.

  • Avoid common mistakes:

  • Flaring the rib cage

  • Tucking the pelvis

  • Excessive turnout from the knees/feet

  • Sinking into hyperextension in the knees

  • Pronation of the foot/ankle

  • Winging/sickling on releve

  • Clawing of the toes on releve


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Increasing Cardiovascular Endurance

  • Technique classes alone don’t adequately prepare you for dancing for extended periods.

  • It is important to supplement with cardiovascular exercise and strength training to prepare for long training days.

  • Aerobic capacity levels are lower in dancers compared to other athletes.

  • Most injuries occur when a dancer is fatigued, and therefore it is important to improve aerobic capacity to delay fatigue.

  • About 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous cardiovascular exercise such as swimming or cycling can bring about aerobic fitness increases (Koutedakis 2004).


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Increasing Muscular Strength

  • Dancers have less lean muscle mass and strength compared to other athletes. In addition, they load their muscles sub optimally, which can result in further strength decreases (Koutedakis 2004).

  • Dancers need adequate strength to sustain intense training.

  • Cross training to build strength could include: Pilates, resistance bands, or weight training.

  • Diversifying physical activity helps prevent muscle imbalances and can improve endurance and strength without redundancy.



Addressing Areas of Weakness

  • Core strength and proximal hip control are better indicators of ankle stability than isolated foot/ankle strength.

  • If a dancer has poor turnout control from the hip and inadequate core stability, the ankle is less stable en pointe, thus placing the dancer at increased risk for injury (Harkness 2017).



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Resting

  • Don’t work through fatigue, illness, or injury. Seek help if an injury occurs.

  • REST! Muscle requires 12-24 hours of rest following intense levels of physical activity in order to heal and repair damaged tissue prior to additional workouts (Koutedakis 2000).

  • This will provide adequate time for tissue healing and recovery and prevent further tissue damage.

  • Set a mandatory rest period after summer intensives.

  • Ensure you are getting adequate sleep every night to allow for proper recovery.

  • Adolescent athletes who sleep 8 or more hours are 68% less likely to be injured (American academy of pediatrics 2012)

  • Cross training can be performed during rest periods (Koutedakis 2004).


References:

1)Koutedakis, Y., & Jamurtas, A. (2004). The dancer as a performing athlete. Sports Medicine, 34(10), 651-661.

2)“Principles of Dance Medicine, Functional Tests to Assess Pointe Readiness.” A webinar through the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries. Accessed Feb 23, 2017.

3) 1)Koutedakis, Y. (2000). " Burnout” in Dance: the physiological viewpoint.

4)American Academy of Pediatrics. (2012, October 21). Lack of sleep tied to teen sports injuries. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 11, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121021102814.htm



Moira is a Doctor of Physical Therapy with a B.F.A in dance who has a unique focus in dance rehabilitation and vestibular therapy. She has completed training in vestibular rehabilitation at the prestigious Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Her extensive dance background in various movement styles engenders a unique understanding of complex movement patterns and translates into a knowledgeable approach to treating movement dysfunction. In addition, her first-hand experience with dance affords her unique understanding on preventing and treating dance injuries. She is currently part of the health team at the ABT Gilespie school alongside Dr. Chris Koutures.


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