Four Ways to Prevent Dance Injuries
Dance is enjoying high popularity in pop culture thanks to the many opportunities people have to access various dance forms. Televised dance competitions such as “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance” have multi-generational family members sitting together and cheering for their favorites.
People who did not know the difference between a Rumba and a Zumba are now mini-experts thanks to these competitions. Then there is YouTube, filled with flash mobs and wedding dances that rapidly become viral sensations. Whether for fun, fitness or competitive advantage, it seems that Americans are getting their groove back. Anything that encourages fitness is good; however, it is important to recognize what causes issues like dancer’s hip and Zumba injuries and how to prevent these injuries so your dance moves are not interrupted.
When enrolling in dance classes, it is important to understand the credentials of the instructors, the level of prior dance experience they recommend, the size of the class and what clothing and shoes are appropriate for each style of dance. Wearing the correct shoe for the type of dance provides the best foundation for a good overall experience with fewer preventable injuries.
Dancer’s hip, also known as snapping hip syndrome, occurs when a dancer hears a snapping sound or feels a snapping sensation when walking, running or rising from a sitting position or swinging the leg around. Most of the time, snapping hip syndrome is merely an annoyance with no further problem than the sound or sensation described above. But for dancers and other athletes, symptoms often include pain and weakness, which can impair performance.
Dancer’s hip is caused by movement of muscle or tendons over bony structures in the hip. While there are other areas where snapping hip syndrome can occur, the most common site is on the outside of the hip where a band of connective tissue, the iliotibial band, passes over the greater trochanter, the part of the thigh bone that juts out. When standing up straight, the iliotibial band is behind the trochanter. When bending at the waist, the iliotibial band moves over and in front of the trochanter, which can be the source of the snapping sound. There are several treatment options ranging from ice, rest and anti-inflammatory over the counter medication progressing to physical therapy, corticosteroid injections and, in some cases, even surgery. Prevention of dancer’s hip is relatively simple. Warm up prior to stretching. Stretches designed to target the quadriceps, hip flexors, iliotibial band and hamstrings are all recommended to prepare the hips for the movements utilized in dance.
Neck strain is another common dance injury. When choreography calls for excessive head and neck movement, the dancer is at risk for neck strain. To prevent neck strain, dancers should use the full spine when arching the neck. Lengthen the neck as much as possible and avoid compressing it. Think controlled and graceful, swanlike movements when arching the neck.
When Alberto Perez, Zumba founder and CEO, was first asked to fill in for a friend as an aerobics instructor, he borrowed a Jane Fonda workout book to prepare for the class. He had no idea that he would go on to develop a dance-based fitness craze that has 15 million people taking weekly classes, practicing in 180 countries. With so many people taking Zumba classes, it is not surprising that there are reported injuries. However, many of the Zumba injuries are preventable with some simple changes.
The most common Zumba injuries are related to knee pain. Provided there are no underlying problems or past injuries, the problem can usually be resolved with a change of shoes. Attendees that are new to Zumba classes often come wearing their regular athletic shoes, which are usually running shoes. The problem is that the treads on running shoes are designed to grip the surface and support the foot moving in a forward motion. Zumba choreography has a lot of side-to-side, pivot, and swivel movements. Since the running shoe tread grips the floor and resists those movements, it puts undue torque and stress on the knee. To prevent and correct the problem, purchase shoes that are made for cross training or those made especially for dance. Enlist the help of the shoe store staff to select appropriate soles for the activity as well as correct fit. Improperly fitted shoes will cause foot injuries such as blisters and raw spots from rubbing.
Knee pain can also be prevented by keeping the body and limbs in alignment. Synchronize your hips, knees, ankles and feet so they are all pointing in the same direction. If you move in one direction and your joint does not go in the same direction, the knees are set up for injury.
A few simple measures will go a long way towards keeping you in dancing form for a lifetime. Wear proper clothes and shoes for the activity. Stay hydrated. Learn to differentiate between discomfort and pain. Avoid pushing through the pain. Pay attention to correct form and technique. Know your limits and pace your progression with a “not too far – not too fast” mentality. Warm up and cool down before and after each exercise session. Follow these easy steps and, most importantly, move your body every day.