My freshman year of high school, dancing on a competitive team got to be so intense that I took frequent baths in cold water and Epsom salts. My joints were so sore that I had to be tested for rheumatoid arthritis. I battered my feet to the point that my toenails fell off and little tears leaked from my eyes every time I took a step. Dancing was an incredible hobby, but it was by no means painless.
And frighteningly enough, those minor complaints might be nothing compared to young dancers today, who are hitting the doctor’s office more than ever thanks to dance-related injuries. A new study looked at young dancers who went to the emergency room for injuries sustained during practice or competition. They found that from 1991 to 2007, these ER visits increased by 37%.
The most common injuries were sprains and falling was the most likely cause of the problem, to the shock of absolutely zero people who have ever spent time in a dance studio. Doctors recommend that young dancers stay hydrated, stretch, warm-up, and cool down to help avoid injuries. (A few more no-brainers.)
As to the cause of the increase in dance-related boo-boos for young ones, it’s hardly coincidental to point out the increased popularity of competitive dance as an extra-curricular activity. A young ballerina today could compete in a new regional or national competition each and every month if she were so inclined.
One has to only look at dance competition shows like “So You Think You Can Dance,” where injuries abound in young dancers that are trying to push themselves as far as they can, to wonder how so much accidents could be taking place. (There were 8,477 emergency room visits in 2007. That’s not even including people who waited and treated their sprains at a family physician during normal business hours.)
Even worse, you could watch a show like “Dance Moms,” where children are berated and criticized by overly harsh instructors and obsessive parents. None of those people seem particularly concerned about the health of the little girls who are providing them with their 15 minutes of fame. They push those children, whose bodies are still developing, so hard that’s a small wonder they all haven’t been injured yet.
This recent study stopped in 2007. I have a feeling that if it continued, the last five years might look even worse for young kids trying to make it in the dance world.