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

In This Article


The high physical demands of professional practice place dancers at significant risk of musculoskeletal injury.

To better understand the Australian context and occurrence of injury in Australian dancers, Ausdance National established the Safe Dance research projects in 1988.

This is the fourth instalment of this work, and for the first time the scope of the ‘professional dancer’ has been expanded to include independent dancers and those based in smaller companies.

We anticipate that the results of this work will be reflective of the increasing diversity of the dance industry and help inform what services and resources may be of most benefit in the future.

Research methods

Data were collected for this report using a retrospective survey that was available in both electronic and hard copy paper form.

The questionnaire was designed to gather information from dancers about:

  • demographics
  • early dance training and current dance working environments
  • the occurrence of musculoskeletal injury, and the sites, types and contributing factors
  • management and return to dance for their most significant injury in the past 12 months.

This report contains a descriptive analysis of these results.

The inclusion criteria for Safe Dance IV participants

  • aged over 18 years
  • paid to work, rehearse or perform as dancer in Australia for a combined period of 3 months or more over the past 12 months
  • personally identify primarily as a professional dancer

Dance-related injury definition

A dance-related injury was defined as ‘a physical problem deriving from stress or other causes to do with performance, rehearsal, training, touring or other circumstances of dance life, which affects ability to participate fully in normal dance training, performance or physical activity’.


A total of 268 surveys were returned, 195 of those met the Safe Dance study inclusion criteria, and 146 dancers completed all injury-related questions.

Survey respondents’ employment as a dance performer was most commonly with a dance company (66%) or as an independent dance artist (38%).

Almost all dancers (97%) reported experiencing at least one significant injury in their dance career to date. A total of 73% of dancers reported experiencing a dance-related injury in the past 12 months.

When asked to expand on their most significant injury in the past 12 months, the most common site of injury was the ankle (26%), followed by the knee (11%) and hip (10%).

The most common injury type was a strain (25%), followed by chronic inflammation (19%) and a sprain (18%).

There was one accidental or traumatic injury for every two overuse or gradual injuries. The most common responses regarding the self-reported contributor to injury was fatigue (48%), followed by new or difficult choreography (39%) and ignoring early warning signs (31%).

A total of 58% of injured dancers in this study sought treatment within two days for their injury, though it took an average of 8 days for all injured dancers to seek treatment. Both initial and follow-up treatment following an injury was most often sought from a physiotherapist.

A total of 71% of dancers were able to make modifications to their practice to continue dancing throughout their injury.

Despite 62% of respondents reporting belief that there is still stigma associated with sustaining injuries as a professional dancer, 75% of dancers did say they would seek professional opinion if they suspected an injury. However, only 50% stated they would tell someone within their dance employment and 49% said they would also take their own preventative steps to manage their injury.


  1. Improved fatigue management by dancers and employers
  2. Access to high quality and dance educated or dance specialised healthcare services
  3. Support for injury self-management
  4. Address fear and stigma regarding injury reporting
  5. Better acknowledgement of psychological and psychosocial aspects of injury
  6. Development of accurate data measures for dance research
  7. Continuation of local Safe Dance research

Report contents

  • Demographics of survey respondents
  • Professional dance participation and environment
  • Dance related injuries
  • Occurrence of injury
  • Site and type of injury
  • Factors contributing to injury occurrence
  • Treatment of injuries
  • Return to dance practices
  • Impact of dance injuries
  • Dancers general experience and opinions of injury
  • Other health related and lifestyle behaviours
  • Safe Dance: are we making a difference?
  • Recommendations and discussion

Related articles

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.