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.
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.