Injury Prevention Tips for Adolescent Dancers
The following Injury Prevention Guidelines summarize findings from the article The Adolescent Dancer: Common Medical Conditions and Relevant Anticipatory Guidance by Kathleen Linzmeier, MD and Dr. Koutures which is published in Adolescent Medicine State of the Art Reviews, April 2015 and is copyright from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
1) The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a rest period from organized physical activity that includes a minimum of 1 full day off per week and 2 to 3 months off per year.
2) Emerging evidence suggests that the risk of injury increases when the number of hours of organized sport/dance activity per week exceeds the age of the child in number of years (eg, a 14-year-old girl should not exceed 14 hours per week of organized dance activities).
3) Single sport or activity specialization at young ages can increase the risk of physical and emotional overuse, frequently leading to burnout and complete cessation of activity. Particular warning signs may include decreased interest in dance activities, lower school grades and attendance, less social interaction, changes in appetite or sleep, and mood alterations such as irritability, anger, or lack of fun or new activities.
4) Incorporating recommended weekly and annual rest intervals along with varying the types of organized activities can reduce the potential for burnout.
5) Medical practitioners may be asked for their opinion on the readiness of young dancers to begin dancing en pointe, which is an advanced ballet skill that places extreme stress on the lower leg, ankle, and foot
6) Readiness recommendations focus not on chronologic age but on the presence of adequate whole body strength and balance (especially of the foot and ankle), lack of current restricting injuries, sufficient “pre-pointe” dance class exposure (minimum 3-4 years), and the future goals of the dancer.
7) Medical professionals should maintain an open dialogue about adequate intake of calories and essential vitamins and minerals, and maintenance of healthy weight to best support ongoing dance activities.
8) Physicians should respect the anatomic and emotional changes that occur during puberty without hesitating to modify or change focus to more basic skills to allow compensation for changes in movement patterns and coordination.