In professional dance, as with all physical and athletic endeavours, there will always be a realistic expectation of some musculoskeletal complaints.
The information gathered through the Safe Dance research studies develops a better understanding of the changing profile of professional dancers in Australia and their experience of injury.
The findings can be used to assist in the tailoring and evaluation of evidence-based injury prevention initiatives with the long-term goal of safely sustaining dancers in their professional dance careers for as long as they choose.
Improved fatigue management by dancers and employers
Fatigue was a highly cited contributing factor to injury, and this has increased since the initial Safe Dance survey in 1990.
Australian dancers have a high workload, whether that is through participation in multiple productions per year, or maintaining multiple roles within their dance employment.
Therefore, as fatigue is one of the more modifiable injury risk factors, improved prevention, recognition and management of fatigue should be practised by dancers and promoted by employers.
Future safe dancing practice guidelines would benefit from incorporation of fatigue management principles, as well as education in the identification of early warning signs.
Access to high quality and dance-educated or dance-specialised healthcare services
Dancers who primarily work outside large companies require better support and access to affordable and specialised dance health care professionals, for both injury prevention as well as treatment and rehabilitation.
This could be achieved through better information provision, for example, a web directory of dance specialist clinicians in different locations around Australia.
It could also be through enabling better access to these services via financial support or subsidies.
Community based clinicians also require support to familiarise themselves with the physical demands of different genres of dance in order to effectively treat injured dancers and provide practical advice regarding injury prevention, management and return to dance.
Support for injury self-management by dancers
Education and initiatives should be implemented to support dancers to be proactive regarding injury prevention and self-management of sustained injuries.
There is an identified need for this by local dancers, as half the survey respondents in Safe Dance IV indicated they would take their own preventative or management steps when they suspect an injury.
There is also an identified desire from dancers to be more proactively involved in their injury rehabilitation, as a number of Safe Dance I and III respondents reported that they were not given as much information as they would have liked from their treating clinician/s about their injury and recovery.
Address fear and stigma regarding injury reporting
The observed culture of stigma and fear surrounding both the experience and reporting of dance-related injuries is improving within the dance sector.
However, there remains a continuing need to acknowledge and support the development of a preventative approach mindset towards injury reporting and help-seeking behaviour regarding injuries within this professional environment.
Better acknowledgement of psychological and psychosocial aspects of injury
The dance sector as a whole (i.e., dancers, teachers, clinicians, administrators, and researchers), requires greater understanding of the non-physical aspects of dance injury prevention and management.
This includes appropriate self-care practices for injury prevention as well as recognition of the psychological aspects of injury prevention, management and rehabilitation.
Development of accurate data measures for dance research
Further research is required into the development of meaningful and accurate individual dance activity (or ‘exposure measurements’) in order to report injury-rate data in future Safe Dance research studies. This should be an area of focus for local dance injury researchers, as well as the fostering of collaborations with international colleagues who are making progress in this field.
Continuation of local Safe Dance research
The Safe Dance research study should continue to be repeated at meaningful intervals, and interpreted within the context of an increasingly diverse professional dance environment in Australia.
These future studies need to be designed and implemented in consultation with the companies and groups that regularly participate in this research, to ensure acceptance of this study as a standard evaluation based practice within the sector.