Injuries In Street Dancers. A Guide to Injury Recovery & Prevention.

PhysioTec-Blog-Injuries-in-Street-Dancers

Street dance encompasses many different styles of dance, all with their own unique history, culture, and evolution over time. PhysioTec’s dance physiotherapists regularly assess and develop dance injury prevention and management programs for dancers. This blog will highlight some common street dance injuries and what you can do to prevent or recover from these injuries if you are a street dancer. Research in this area has been emerging gradually as many of these styles are relatively new in comparison to other genres. Street Dance styles appearing in research so far has included hip hop, breaking, popping, locking, house, and krump.

COMMON STREET DANCE INJURIES

Street Dance styles have originated from different scenes including streets and clubs, with these various styles being expressed through freestyle, cyphers, grooves, and choreography. Street dance is increasing in popularity as these dance forms appear more and more across social media and competitions. Physical demands are becoming higher, and dancers are expected to have high levels of fitness, strength, agility, coordination, and motor control to meet the unique demands of each genre.1

Hip hop dancers have a similar injury incidence rate to gymnasts, and this rate of injury is higher when compared to modern dance and ballet. This highlights the importance of prevention strategies as this has been found to greatly influence the number of injuries sustained over a dancer’s career.2

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COMMON INJURIES IN STREET DANCERS

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KNEE INJURIES IN STREET DANCERS

Knee injury comes in at number one as the most common injury in street dancers, accounting for 42% of all street dance injuries.3 Street styles involve dancing techniques that require quick and intricate footwork – twists, sudden changes in direction, moving the body into unnatural positions and deep squats. Some hip hop components are quite acrobatic in nature and require dancers to land or stomp with great force. The risk of knee injury is therefore relatively high when considering the volume of rotating and jump landings with either flexed or extended knees.

It is common for dancers to have a dominant side which poses a challenge when it comes to group performances where dancers are required to perform in unison. Dancers with a larger preference for one side increase their risk of knee injury as there will likely be a lack of strength on the non-dominant side.4

Knee injury risk in street dancers is also increased during lengthy performances as the muscles gradually become more fatigued and efficiency in controlling the knee joint subsequently reduces. Choreographers are of course more interested in the way a move looks, than how it feels to the dancer, meaning that some moves may be particularly challenging for the knee, placing this joint at greater risk of injury.5

LOWER BACK INJURIES IN STREET DANCERS

Lower back injury is the second most common injury in street dancers (32%).3 Dance techniques in street styles often involve a combination of footwork and fluid movement from upper body grooves which require use of core muscles and trunk control. All turns, jumps, and landings require dancers to have high levels of control around the back and hips.6

Lower back injuries in street dancers are most commonly reported to be linked to the way the muscles around the back, pelvis and core activate and coordinate, with altered muscle strength and/or behaviour potentially increasing risks of injury. Risk of lower back injury is increased during high-impact, repetitive loading involved in street dance training and performance.7

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ANKLE INJURIES IN STREET DANCERS

Ankle injury ranks as the third most common injury in street dancers (15%).4 This should come as no surprise due to the volume of jumping, hopping, and variations in landing involved in street dance. Factors that increase the risk of ankle injury in street dancers include poor technique, inadequate muscle control around the ankle and/or dynamic balance but may also occur from external factors such as performing on an uneven surface, unsupportive footwear or contact with another dancer.8 It is essential to address these external factors to reduce the risk of sustaining an ankle injury in street dancing.

TYPES OF STREET DANCE INJURIES

Street dancers have been found to injure themselves mostly by overuse (50%), landing (42%), twisting (36%), or slipping (31%).9 Dancers predominantly experience more overuse and chronic injuries due to poor technique, strength, and balance.10

When looking specifically at breaking, dancers are most likely to injure their wrist (69%), finger (61.9%), and knee (61.9%). Injury mechanisms are typically joint sprains, muscle strains and tendon injuries.11 It is important to consider breaking as a potentially high-risk dance sport.

It has been found that even when breakers sustain severe injuries, they only allow a limited time for recovery before returning to training.12 A lack of recovery and rehabilitation will increase the risks of developing an ongoing issue. A new injury might also occur due to the dancer needing to protect the injured or weakened area, moving extra forces to a nearby body part.

WHAT CAN I DO TO PREVENT OR RECOVER FROM STREET DANCE INJURIES?

There are several ways of preventing dance injuries from occurring, or assisting in injury recovery.

1. WARM-UP BEFORE STREET DANCE TRAINING OR PERFORMANCES

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Prevention is key. No matter how big or small a performance, a dancer in any style should conduct an adequate warm-up. This involves increasing the heart rate with cardio exercise such as running on the spot, jumping and hopping. This cardio can be followed by dynamic lengthening of the muscles to ensure they are warm, and the body has been moved through the ranges it will need to move through during training or a performance.

Dynamic warm ups are preferred over passive stretching (holding a sustained stretch), as sustained stretching can reduce the natural reactivity needed for dynamic actions in street dance.

It is important that dancers work together with their family, dance teachers, and health professionals as a team, to ensure dancers are taking care of their body properly and staying healthy. If the dancer is in the middle of a busy training period in preparation for competitions and routine rehearsals have become the focus of training, the dancer should take it into their own hands to warm themself up prior to class. This is a crucial time as dancers will know training volume increases and so does the level of expected performance, meaning it is not the time to stop conditioning the body and warming up correctly.

2. BALANCE TRAINING FOR STREET DANCERS

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Research has found balance and proprioception (awareness of body position in space) to be a key component of injury prevention, as this helps control large forces that cross the joints.5 Positive effects can be seen from quick balance training of 4-15 minutes per session conducted twice a week.13

For street dancers, balance training needs to be more than simply practising standing on one leg or on a wobble board. Our dance physios can provide balance programs specific for the challenges of dancing.

3. STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING FOR STREET DANCERS

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Street dancers should add strength and conditioning to their weekly routine to complement their dance training. The aim is to increase the muscles’ ability to maintain the capacity to perform the tasks required in dance, and to reduce the impact of training and performance on the body.8

It is always best to consult a physiotherapist prior to commencing a strength and conditioning program. Our dance physios aim to identify any risk factors for injury and provide a targeted exercise program to assist the dancers training and performance.

4. REST & RECOVERY FOR  DANCERS

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It is also extremely important for dancers to reduce fatigue and receive adequate nutrition to sustain the body during training sessions and performances to prevent injury.6 Adequate recovery time should be allowed between training and exercise sessions.

If a dancer does unfortunately become injured, it is vital that they do not simply push through severe pain, as we often see happening within the dance culture. Dancers must allow sufficient time for their injury to heal. Dancers are encouraged to seek advice from a physiotherapist on when they may return to dance or if they will need a graduated return to their training program.

For advice on prevention of dance injuries, or for rehabilitation and treatment of dance injuries, make an appointment with one of our Dance Physios, Dave, Rhianna, or Hanna. Call 3342 4284 to book.
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Thinking of Going En-Pointe?

You might need a Pre-Pointe Assessment.

Find out the 4 common injury risk factors identified in PRE-Pointe Assessment, with this FREE resource.

Do you you need help recovering from an injury? Improving your performance? Or just getting back to doing the things that you love? Visit us at PhysioTec, and let one of our physios assess you and provide you with a personalised program to help you get on-top of your condition, and feel at your best.

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Rhianna Tunks - Physio at Physiotec, Tarragindi, Brisbane

Author

This blog was written by Rhianna Tunks, one of our Dance physiotherapists and our Group Exercise & Pilates instructor. Rhianna's love of movement and exercise, is also of broad benefit for anyone with musculoskeletal pain or injury. You can read more about Rhianna here.

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REFERENCES

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