Safe Dance IV—Investigating injuries in Australia’s professional dancers

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Safe Dance® diagram

The extreme physical demands experienced by dancers place them at high risk for significant injury. The consequences of these injuries can be quite substantial and include missed performance opportunities and income, ongoing pain and disability, and expensive treatment including surgery. Serious injuries can even lead to early retirement from dance careers and lifelong disability. Keeping dancers injury free is also essential for optimal mental and physical wellbeing outside of dance and when transitioning careers in the future. Luckily, advancements are constantly being made in sports medicine, injury prevention and exercise physiology shifting the focus of dance medicine from treatment to prevention. However, in order to successfully introduce and evaluate best practice prevention activities, the dance injury problem must be described and risk factors must be identified on an ongoing basis. 

Australia is at the forefront of dance injury epidemiology efforts; the Safe Dance Project Report on dance injury prevention and management in the Australian dance profession, known as Safe Dance®, was launched over 25 years ago. It was the first study of its kind conducted in Australia and showed an alarming prevalence of both chronic and acute injuries in Australian dancers. These findings led to a variety of recommendations and initiatives, including a recommendation to repeat the Safe Dance study regularly to evaluate the effect of these initiatives and provide further insight into dancer health and wellbeing.   

The 4th Safe Dance project, Safe Dance IV—Investigating injuries in Australia’s professional dancers, has recently been launched by the University of Sydney and Ausdance. This national survey of all professional dancers in Australia is being conducted by Amy Vassallo, a PhD candidate, and her supervisors Dr Claire Hiller, A/Prof Evangelos Pappas and A/Prof Emmanuel Stamatakis. It has been developed based on previous national and international dance injury studies, a comprehensive review of relevant literature in the field of sport medicine and epidemiological research and expert advice from the local dance community.  

By the end of this study we will better understand:

  • the current prevalence of injuries in Australia’s professional dance population;
  • risk and protective factors for common dance injuries;
  • rehabilitation practices and health service access by dancers;
  • the impact different injuries on dancers’ overall quality of life; and
  • the effect of previous initiatives on dance injury prevention.

Developing this better understanding of the changing injury profile in Australia’s dancers will assist in evaluating and tailoring future evidence-based injury prevention initiatives, with the long-term goal of safely sustaining dancers in their chosen career for as long as possible.

If you would like to learn more about Safe Dance or other dance research projects at the University of Sydney, please email Amy, Twitter @amyjvassalloor, or Facebook Dance Research Collaborative.

For more information about the study, or to be involved, please visit Safe Dance IV–Investigating injuries in Australia's professional dancers.

Related articles

Safe Dance: what does it mean and what’s changed over the past 20 years

The words ‘safe dance’ mean many different things to different parts of the dance community. It could be safe dance practice recommendations for teachers and studio owners, safe physical dance environments, injury prevention and safe return to dance practices, supporting the mental and physical development of dance students, the list goes on.

But how far have we come in preventing and managing injuries in Australia’s professional dancers? And are our dance practices safe?