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Rigors of Ballet Require Careful Training

Expert offers dancers tips on injury prevention

FRIDAY, April 1, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Ballet and other types of dancing are challenging activities that can put tremendous strain on certain parts of the body, so it's critical to take steps to prevent injuries, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

"When it comes to sports injuries, dance may not always come to mind, but the fact of the matter is that ballet is incredibly demanding on the body," spokeswoman and orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Angela Smith said in an AAOS news release.

"Ballet dancers must have astonishing flexibility, incredible strength in often very slender bodies, and amazing quickness, jumping and agility. For dancers, overuse injuries are common because they must practice and perform specific, difficult poses and movements that require this great strength and flexibility -- over and over again," she explained.

"A careful warm-up that includes stretching and a gradual, progressive build-up to new skills or performance roles helps prevent overuse injuries. Rapidly increasing the amount of dancing or suddenly changing technique often causes problems," she added.

A five-year study of 204 ballet dancers found that 32 percent to 51 percent of them were injured each year, according to the AAOS. The foot/ankle, hip, knee and back were common areas of injury.

The AAOS offered a number of safety tips:

  • Wear correctly fitted clothing and shoes.
  • If you're in a cool studio, wear a snug sweater and leggings until you warm up.
  • Always do a proper warm-up and cool-down.
  • Only dance in pointe shoes after your feet are strong enough to hold solid half-toe (demi-pointe).
  • Drink plenty of fluids and eat a sufficient and healthy diet to fuel your body's energy needs.
  • Know your body's limits, and don't push it too far or too fast.
  • Use correct technique and proper body alignment.
  • Don't dance through pain. If something hurts, see your doctor.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics discusses ballet, dance and children.

SOURCE: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, news release, March 29, 2011
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