CHICAGO – To stay healthy, we're taught to lead an active lifestyle, but taking up a new sport or activity could put you at risk for injury. The risk is even higher when you're a professional dancer. So how do they keep performing? The pros at the world renowned Joffrey Ballet share some tips.
Ask dancer Anastacia Holden what attracts her to ballet and she'll tell you, "there was nothing else that I liked to do more," said Holden.
However, the physical demands on her body can take a toll.
"I jump from the lower leg, which means that I overstress those lower muscles," Holden said.
Fellow Joffrey dancer Matthew Adamczyk shares Holden's pain. He has broken his ankle nine times.
"I've gone for rather large jumps and instead of landing flat on my ankle, I would land sideways. The ankle and feet would roll underneath my leg," Adamczyk said.
Athletic trainer Katie Lemmon says repetitive movements can put anyone at risk for overuse injuries.
"It's all about balance of the muscles. A lot of times when we see someone, whether it's a dancer, a general athlete, or any person, I find a lot of the injuries are caused by muscle imbalances," Lemmon explained.
To find the balance, incorporate moves that emphasize flexibility and strength.
"That's why I like some of the Pilates based exercises because they're working on the stability while you're moving your joint through a motion," Lemmon said.
Also, think opposites.
"If you're doing a repetitive movement, where you're all forward, maybe there's some type of movement where you can work the muscles in the back," Lemmon explained.
Mix up your workouts at least once a week.
"I do a lot of biking, swimming, and running," Adamczyk said.
Finally, follow the three day rule.
"We tell them if something hurts for more than two to three days to come see us or seek medical attention," Lemmon said.
You don't have to be an athlete to incorporate these tips. Even if you're hunched over a computer all day long, you can use the rule of thinking opposites. Try taking breaks and stretching out the front of your shoulder and through your back to help relieve tension and keep your body balanced.
Professional dancers battle with injuries constantly. Ballet dancers in particular suffer from leg and spine injuries that force them to be patient with recoveries. Ligament strains, muscle strains, snapping hip syndrome, stress fractures, and tendonitis are just a few injuries that dancers experience during their careers. To prevent these occurrences from happening, they must become familiar and aware of their bodies. Stretching is very helpful before and after performances and practices. Cross-training is also recommended to utilize other muscles of your body. (Source: myphysio.ca/physiotherapy-education/common-ballet-dance-injuries)
MUSCLE IMBALANCE: Human movement and function requires a balance of muscle length and strength between opposing muscles surrounding a joint. Normal amounts of opposing muscles are necessary to keep the bones centered in the joint during motion; this would be called muscle balance. On the other hand, muscle imbalance occurs when opposing muscles provide different directions of tension due to tightness or weakness. For example, the quadriceps and hamstrings of the knee joint perform opposite motions; an imbalance between the two could put undue stress on the joint. A tight hamstring would not allow the joint to glide normally or fully extend, which could put stress on the quadriceps muscle and patella (knee cap). (Source: muscleimbalancesyndromes.com/what-is-muscle-imbalance)
WHO IS AT RISK?: Athletes are more prone to developing a muscle imbalance due to the constant stress on certain muscles. In 1992, an article published in the journal of Sports Medicine showed that an athlete is 2.6 times more likely to suffer an injury if an imbalance in hip flexibility of 15 percent or more existed. However, it's not just athletes who are at risk. "About 65 percent of injuries—both athletic and lifestyle-related—come from overuse, which is repetitive use of joints that are rendered dysfunctional by muscular imbalances," Mark Verstegen, president and founder of Athletes' Performance and Core Performance, was quoted as saying. To avoid a muscle imbalance, it is recommended that athletes use muscles that are not as frequently used on off days to warm up these muscles. This will help in preventing injuries and will strengthen muscles. (Source: coreperformance.com/knowledge/training/muscle-imbalance.html)