The Merriam-Webster dictionary offers the following definition for the word injury: "hurt, damage, or loss sustained". Indeed.
Dancers get hurt; just like soccer players, hockey players, and cheerleaders do. Joints and muscles may become damaged from any or some of the following: poor technique, or overuse, or pushing harder after the body has said it is tired and needs rest. Sometimes poor eating habits contribute to fatigue as well as the body's inflammatory response too (chronic inflammation can prolong an injury).
In this day of litigation, the preferred word is "injured", but hurt is accurate. We roll ankles, land too hard on the balls of our feet, tweak muscles in our back, and inflict muscle soreness (sometimes for days) by pushing ourselves harder.
In the years I've been dancing, and teaching, my observations are that dancers who are tired, and are not listening to their bodies, are at greater risk of injury and that poor technique comes in second to fatigue. Not to say that poor technique doesn't create the perfect environment for injury... but a tired dancer can trip up or down a set of stairs, or while walking, and become injured.
If you, or anyone in your family, are tired, pay attention. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites insufficient sleep as a public health problem. People get hurt when they are tired. There is no amount of training that can avoid this. Sleep is the answer. There are no supplements or nutritional shakes that can do what quality sleep can do. The National Sleep Foundation, and Sleep.org, provide information on this topic, and by the way... sleep disorders can affect anyone at any time, and any age. Many children suffer from insufficient sleep.
I am sure that no one is surprised if they hear that sleep is important when it comes to muscle restoration and the body's ability to heal. WebMD cites restful sleep helps curb overactive appetites, "makes you smarter, brightens your mood, heals you from the inside out, guards your heart, and makes tough decisions easier". Sleep is a key factor to becoming and remaining an excellent dancer, without injuries. Sleep.
What Are You Eating?
I have to talk about daily diets. Every body is different. Before jumping on the wagon with supplements... talk to a licensed nutritionist or a registered dietician. These individuals spend years educating themselves on how food creates positive responses in the body on a molecular level, and they can help everyone at every age heal faster, perform better, and think with more clarity (just to cite a few positives)... These are licensed or registered health professionals, who are required to continue their education in order to practice. Professional athletes looking to remain in the game for the long-term hire these professionals because diets geared toward maintaining a high level of activity and decreasing injury works. You might say, "Well, we don't have a salary of a professional athlete", but there are insurers that cover these providers too, and paying out of pocket is an investment into your health and well being.
If you are a dancer who has experienced an injury either currently, or previously; please seek treatment from a licensed professional. See a medical professional, and work the program until you are cleared to get back into the classroom. Also keep in mind that there may be an anxiety or depressive component to injuries. Talk about how you are feeling emotionally and seek support. You will find more support during your injury than you know.
Injury Prevention Classes?
Many are looking to jump on this cash-cow wagon, and I see dance teachers marketing themselves as injury-prevention specialists, without any proof of qualification. They are offering injury prevention classes, evaluations and protocols, and they are not sufficiently educated or licensed to assess or treat injuries.
The state of Florida is very specific about how you can market yourself and charge for services when it comes to medically-relevant protocols, such as injury prevention and rehabilitation. Only a specific license, with accredited training and CEUs, can qualify an individual.
A dance teacher who does not hold a license to practice or teach injury prevention protocols should not be marketing herself or himself as an injury-prevention specialist because really all that person is... is a dance teacher! Dance teachers are ethically responsible to provide safe methods of instruction. This is part of being a decent dance instructor, who also care about her or his students' health. If we are doing our jobs correctly, then we are all able to teach a class without every dancer in that class leaving us with injuries. Period.
Proper dance technique has evolved, and as medical science becomes more advanced, we have access to more information that can help us teach better technique and even develop our own methods that benefit the dancers' body. And we should do this... even if it means challenging the stuff our teachers told us 10+ years ago.
Dance teachers should be knowledgable of, at the very least, human anatomy and physiology. They should know that the bones in one dancer will not be identical to the bones of another dancer. Sure, they have the same number of bones, theoretically; the bones will not be the exact shape. We are all different. Dance teachers should know that not all ligaments are the same in length between two different people... and that tendonitis is often be caused by poor technique; not necessarily overuse.
Dance teachers should know that not every dancer will be able to "wing" her foot, no matter how many repetitions of eversion she does with the TheraBand. Dance teachers should know that that the length of tibia and fibula determine the angle of eversion while the foot is in plantarflexion, and that if the lateral malleolus is longer in one dancer, her foot will not "wing" the same as another dancer's foot. We should know this, in this day and age, and we should be teaching these things to our dancers while in the classroom.
Sometimes small amounts of information, related to science that is tested and tested again, will relieve the young dancer of the hopelessness she or he feels because they do not see the results they are trying to achieve. Sometimes, the results have limits. Pushing beyond these limits breaks down the integrity of the body.... and creates an environment for an injury.