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 almost 30 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 IV

The 4th Safe Dance project, Safe Dance IV—Investigating injuries in Australia’s professional dancers, is a collaboration between The University of Sydney and Ausdance National. This national survey of all professional dancers in Australia was conducted by Amy Vassallo, a PhD candidate, and her supervisors Dr Claire Hiller, A/Prof Evangelos Pappas and A/Prof Emmanuel Stamatakis. It was 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.  

Read Safe Dance Report IV.

Through the Safe Dance IV project, we now 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 of different injuries on dancers’ overall quality of life
  • 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.

Earlier Safe Dance® research reports

  • The Safe Dance I 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 II 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 III 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.

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Recommendations arising from the Safe Dance IV research project

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.

Safe Dance IV research survey: data reveals life dedicated to learning & training

In February 2017 we wrapped up data collection for the 4th Safe Dance research project, Safe Dance IV – Investigating injuries in Australia’s professional dancers. This is a continuation of the important work started by Ausdance National almost 30 years ago, which aims to better understand the occurrence of injuries in Australia’s professional dancers as the landscape of professional dance continues to change.   

A vast amount of rich information will be analysed and interpreted in preparation for the launch of the 4th Safe Dance report in late 2017.

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 report I

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.

3 Comments

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umer avatar

umer commented on

Great ideas for sharing.. keep it up…

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Thomas Jawahar avatar

Thomas Jawahar commented on

Great and informative article, Hoping to read you future article! Thankyou

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Linda PetersS avatar

Linda PetersS commented on

Hey man,
This report documents the recurrence of injury in Australia professional dancers. This is a continuation of the important work started by Ausdance National almost 30 years ago, which aims to better understand the occurrence of injuries in Australia’s professional dancers as the landscape of professional dance continues to change.  I agree with your post.Thanks for sharing your post.

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