Investigating injuries in Australia’s professional dancers

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.

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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, 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.

Safe Dance® research reports

  • The Safe Dance 1 report presented the results of a survey of Australian professional dancers. Of the 172 people who answered the survey, 86% of them were under 30 years of age and 52% suffered a chronic injury by the age of 18. The report was supported by statistics and extensive consultation with dance and health professionals.
  • The Safe Dance 2 report, researched by Tony Geeves as part of his PhD studies six years after the publication of the Safe Dance Project Report, makes recommendations for extended dance teacher education and reassessment of the physical and psychological environment for teenagers who are training intensively.
  • The Safe Dance 3 report (1999) research findings indicated a picture of improved dancers' health. As in any athletic activity, there will be injuries, but this study showed that improvements in injury prevention and management can be, and are being, made.

Safe Dance® IV research in 2016

The 4th Safe Dance project, Safe Dance IV—Investigating injuries in Australia’s professional dancers, was launched by the University of Sydney and Ausdance in 2016. 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 sports 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 Safe Dance IV study, or to be involved, please visit Safe Dance IV–Investigating injuries in Australia's professional dancers.

Related Articles

Safe Dance IV—it would be nothing without you!

From January 2017 we will start analysing the rich and valuable data provided though the Safe Dance IV questionnaire. We will also be writing the 4th Safe Dance report, which will be made available to the dance community via the Ausdance National website. In particular this report will detail the current prevalence of injuries in Australia’s professional dance population and describe progress that has been made in injury prevention and management since the 3rd Safe Dance report was published in 1999. The major study conclusions will be used to help set priority areas for future dance research and action, make updated safe dance practice recommendations and assist with evaluations of current injury prevention initiatives.  

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

The 4th Safe Dance® project, Safe Dance IV—Investigating injuries in Australia’s professional dancers, is about to be 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.

Safe Dance report 1

This project was the first of its kind undertaken in Australia. The report is supported by statistics and extensive consultation with dance and health professionals.

Safe Dance ® practice

These Safe Dance ® practice guidelines include how to set up a safe learning environment, what makes a practice or performance venue safe, the importance of cater for physical different bodies and abilities, how movements might impact on the body, and simple injury prevention and management strategies.

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umer commented on

Great ideas for sharing.. keep it up…

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