Dancing is a wonderful artistic expression and kids have taken to tapping, pirouetting, Irish stepping and even ballroom dancing across the country. While it can be fun and great exercise, lots of these kids are being seriously injured.
Researchers at Nationwide Children's Hospital looked at a national database of emergency-department visits. What they found was that the most common dance-related injuries were sprains, strains and injuries from falls. The patients were between 15 and 19 years old.
The researchers said no one on the team is calling for parents to pull their children from dance classes, but that the results from their study suggests that instructors should look for ways to prevent injury in students who participate in the physically demanding activity.
About 113,100 children and teens were treated for dance injuries in U.S. emergency departments between 1991 and 2007, according to the research teams estimates. During that time, the number of cases in a year increased by more than 37 percent, to about 8,500 in 2007. This is the first study to examine dance-related injuries on a national level. It was published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health.
With about 22,000 dance schools across the country, study author Kristen Roberts, said one reason for the increase in injuries may be that there are simply more children dancing.
Steps to prevent injury include stretching, staying hydrated, getting plenty of rest and using good form.
Eric Leighton, an athletic trainer with the Nationwide Children's sports-medicine program, works with dancers regularly and said that repetition and fatigue often lead to injury.
Whether it's a pitcher throwing a lot of pitches in one inning or a dancer repeating a dance, as the muscles get tired, some of the coordination and the body's ability to cope starts to suffer he said. The hospital recently started a program to focus on dance.
They're dancers, they're artists, but they're also athletes. It requires a lot of strength, stability, power and balance, Leighton said. Of course, they have to take all that and make it graceful and beautiful as well.
As dancers grow, their taller, heavier bodies, combined with intense, difficult dance moves, make injuries more common, he said. Cross-training and flexibility work, such as yoga, can lower injury risk, Leighton said.
Dancing competitions can be fierce. These kids are truly athletes and like any athlete they have to work hard to achieve their goal and stay healthy during the process.
Dance instructors and parents can keep an eye on their dancers to make sure that they know their limits and do not get too fatigued that's when most injuries occur. The three Rs are always good to keep in mind -rest, repair and re-hydrate.