Tututhepointe recently had the opportunity to chat with Julie O’Connell (PT, DPT, OCS, ATC). O’Connell is the Performing Arts Program Manager at Athletico Physical Therapy in Chicago, IL. We wanted to find out what steps dancers can take to prevent injuries as well as the proper measures to take when an injury occurs.
What are the basic keys to injury prevention?
Dancers should participate in an active warmup, use good ballet technique, establish proper postural support, maintain good body strength and function within your facility of flexibility. Schedule periods of rest within your dance training. Focus on good general health of eating a healthy diet, maintaining good hydration and appropriate sleep. Consider cross training for improved cardiovascular endurance, strength and flexibility versus just focusing on the technique training.
Can you talk about the move to dynamic warming up versus static stretching?
Dynamic warm-ups are better so that you can increase heart rate to get blood flowing so that the muscles become more pliable and able to stretch. Static stretching can put your joints at risk for injury secondary to overstretching.
What are warning signs of a serious injury or one that needs help?
Inspect a body area for swelling, discoloration and deformity. Listen to your body based on pain and modify your activity level.
What are some basic self-care techniques to help with recovery after performance or intense rehearsals or summer intensive? What are daily self-care basics during routine dance class schedule?
I recommend a foam roller to release tight muscles, a tennis ball or foot roller to roll out your arches and the use of ice for any sore areas after rehearsal.
How best can a dancer safely increase flexibility?
Begin with a dynamic warm-up, you can then stretch a targeted muscle group for 30 seconds without bouncing and repeat 3 times and work with the oppositional muscle groups around a specific joint area to decrease oppositional tension. The focus could also be placed on range of motion of the joints to improve the soft tissue surrounding the joint.