Tackling the dangers of dance

It may sound surprising, but professional dancers are more likely to suffer injuries than rugby players. Statistics show that 80 per cent of dancers incur at least one injury a year that affects their ability to perform – compared to a 20 per cent injury rate for rugby or football players.
 
Dance is not a contact or potentially combative sport, and performers are not engaged in a competitive battle on stage. So why do they suffer such a high rate of injury?
 
This is a question that Dr Matthew Wyon, reader in performance science at the University of Wolverhampton intends to answer. He is involved in a new research project to look at injury rates among dancers and examine ways to keep them fit and healthy.
 
Dr Wyon, from the School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure, says: “The UK has been leading the way with research in dance medicine and science with regards to studies examining injury rates in the different dance populations but until now the data has been self-reported by dancers.
 
“The present research project will allow a much more in-depth examination of the causes and types of injury, as well as providing information on the cost and time of rehab. Presently there is little specialised help for dancers who are outside the major dance companies and the major outcome of the research will be the push for dance medicine and science clinics around the UK.”
 
The dancers’ health pilot scheme has been launched by Dance UK in partnership with the University of Wolverhampton, the Olympic Medical Institute and the Laban, a dance training centre in London. The project has received support from The Jerwood Charitable Foundation, which has provided the first £80,000 to the £500,000 scheme.
 
To find out what causes the injuries, the team of researchers will study 100 professional dancers. Tests will include a health questionnaire, in-depth analysis of their injury history and investigation of their nutritional and psychological health. Any injuries sustained during the period of the project will be recorded and dancers will be able to access treatment.
 
Dr Wyon’s role will include the study design and analysis, and the prevention intervention that is to be implemented in the second year to try and reduce the injury occurrence rate. The researchers will use the world-class facilities on offer at the Jerwood Centre for the Treatment of Dance Injuries, based at Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Olympic Medical Institute, which has a rehabilitation centre at Northwick Park Hospital in Middlesex.
 
The scheme is expected to last two and a half years and the findings will be published in 2012.