Tips To Prevent Injury
September 23rd, 2019 by Elizabeth Radabaugh
When gearing up for the season ahead, injury prevention is crucial for a successful year. Start your year out right and make sure you are actively preventing yourself from nasty pulled muscles, sprains and fractures. Take the following steps to ensure you have the most successful year yet!
The number one thing you can do to prevent injuries is to warm up. I cannot repeat this enough: warm up, warm up, WARM UP! A proper warm up is key to an injury-free rehearsal, class, or performance. Make sure you are actively moving. Dancers should have a light sweat after their warm up and be ready for any movement, big or small. Start from the top of your body and work your way down. Don’t skip areas. A good way to make sure you give yourself an adequate warm up is to hit three major areas- spine, arms and legs. Your spine should have full range of motion starting from your head to your tailbone. Warm up your arms with port de bra exercises that utilize strength and softness. For your legs, make sure your hamstrings are warm and stretched. Don’t forget about your ankles. Make sure you warm up those feet with sautés and changements.
Take some ideas from your teacher’s warm up that really gets you loosened up. Static stretching is important but, make sure your blood is pumping. For example, plenty of pliés, tendus and contractions are more beneficial to your warm up than sitting in a split. Plopping down in a straddle as soon as you walk into class isn’t really warming you up properly. Every dancer is different with his or hers preferred method but, make sure you complete a well-rounded warm up for your best chance at preventing an injury.
What is essential for your dance bag? Water, shoes or extra bobby pins? Those things might be important but, what about protecting your joints? When learning a new routine, you want to make sure you are prepared for anything. I suggest having a pair of knee pads, ankle braces and bandages in your bag. Primarily for Lyrical, Jazz or Contemporary, choreographers are thinking out-of-the-box more and more. They are utilizing floor work in almost every phrase.
When learning new choreography, we tend to repeat it multiple times to make sure we have it memorized. You don’t want to get caught marking choreography on the first day because your knees are bruised up or sore. Utilizing an ankle brace might be helpful to you as well. It will help stabilize if your ankle if you’re feeling minor pain or fatigue. (Obviously, if you’re feeling a lot of pain you shouldn’t dance and should get it checked out.) If you haven’t danced over the summer, you might find that your dance calluses have lighten up. Be prepared with bandages or tape to prevent floor burns or blisters. Be prepared for anything your teacher throws at you!
Maintain Your Temple
If your body is a temple, then maybe you need to do a little renovating and maintenance. Maintenance is important to preventing injuries. Maybe you’ve used a foam roller, TheraBand or foot stretcher before. These are great tools to maintain your strength and muscle health during a hectic rehearsal schedule. TheraBand exercises are very helpful when maintaining the strength of your hamstrings and feet. I have found, when used properly, TheraBands have decreased my chance of a foot injury and increased my range of motion.
Post rehearsal, while your feet are warm, is a perfect time to utilize a foot stretcher to increase flexibility and strength. However, use foot stretchers with caution. Make sure you are fully warmed up and not cold when using them. The day after rehearsal is a great time to pull out that foam roller and massage your sore muscles. If you’re really feeling sore, going for a massage is a great way to release knots and loosen tight, over-worked muscles.
Know When To See A Doctor
Finally, if you find yourself constantly nursing an area or feeling sharp pain, see your physician immediately. It is easier to prevent a serious injury if you get it checked out sooner rather than later. A doctor can prescribe physical therapy or exercises to prevent further damage to an area. Take the initiative to prevent injuries. Be smart about what your body needs and maintain your temple.
Marissa Staniec is a performer, choreographer, teacher and adjudicator for StarQuest with over 20 years of experience in the dance industry. She also hosts, writes and produces her own podcast on iTunes called “Beyond the Mirror: A Dancer’s Podcast”.