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Preventing Injury

Preventing injury is vital for a dancer so that they can keep dancing and keep their career (Berardi, 2007; Gilltrap, 2009). Being healthy for a dancer is necessary because dance takes a lot of stamina and strength (Bedinghaus, 2003). Ballet in particular, puts a tremendous amount of stress on a dancerís body and if a dancer is unhealthy, it could result in injury or other health problems (Berardi, 2007; Cleveland Clinic, 2006; DiNubile, n.d.).

Having a balanced diet is a vital part of preventing injury in a dancer. A dancerís diet should consist of a balance of carbohydrates, protein, fluids, vitamins and minerals and healthy fats. Dancers cannot afford to skimp on meals or fluids. Training for hours on a daily basis and then adding on performances burns a lot of calories. A dancerís body needs proper nutrition to fuel the energy that goes into training and performing. Having poor nutrition does not allow the dancer to build proper strength or exert the proper amount of energy, resulting in greater risk of injury (Bedinghaus, 2003; Clarkson, 2005).

 

Poor nutritional habits include not consuming enough liquids, calories or eating foods that do not promote energy (Clarkson, 2005). Many dancers want to stay lean, but do so by cutting calories (Griner, et al., 2006). Having a low calorie diet in a dancer results in lower energy and risk of other health problems such as fatigue and increased risk of osteoporosis. Another problem with having low energy is doing a poor performance. With fatigue, a dancer will not be able to perform at their best. Also, once an injury occurs, low calorie intake can increase the time needed for healing (Clarkson, 2005; Robson & Chertoff, 2008).

Dehydration and lack of consuming enough iron are also causes of possible injuries. Dehydration is a major concern because not only does it cause fatigue, it lowers a dancers ability to endure the demands of training and performing. Lack of proper hydration also alters ability to manage weight (Clarkson, 2005; Nutrition for Dancers, 2008; Snell, 2007). Many dancers avoid eating red meat because of the high calorie content. But, this could result in having lower amounts of iron. Having low amounts of iron increases the risk of injury because a lack of it can result in overall weakness. If a dancer does not consume red meats, alternatives need to include fortified cereals (Snell, 2007).

Keeping hydrated through water consumption promotes a healthy lifestyle that will assist in preventing illness and injuries for dancers because it assists in regulating body temperature. Dancers need to consider this and consume water especially before, during and after training and performances (Bedinghaus, 2003; Clarkson, 2005; Nutrition for Dancers, 2008).

 

Keeping a balanced diet further promotes preventing injury. A balanced diet for a dancer is different than that of a normal person. This is because dancers need constant energy to keep up with training. It is recommended that dancers have about 50-65% of their diet coming from carbohydrates, 20-30% fats and 12-30% from proteins, with water consumption and a healthy amount of vitamins and minerals added to their daily diet (Bedinghaus, 2003; Clarkson, 2005; Gower-Winter, 2008; Rada, n.d.).

Besides having a balanced diet, consuming enough water, vitamins and minerals, preventing injury also includes recognizing when rest is necessary (Berardi, 2007; Clarkson, 2005; Nutrition for Dancers, 2008). To prevent injury, a dancer should be careful not to over train (Minden, 2005). Training too much puts strain on the muscles. Recognizing when muscles are being overworked, when rest for the body is needed and getting enough sleep promotes a healthy dancer (Berardi, 2007; DiNubile, n.d.; Minden, 2005).

In addition to getting rest, always following the routine of doing a proper warm up and stretching of the muscles assists in making the body less vulnerable to injuries (Berardi, 2007). When the body feels strained, dancers should not overwork it. Rather, modifying the training to allow the body to be under less stress promotes injury prevention (DiNubile, n.d.; Robson & Chertoff, 2008). Training with proper uniform, such as a well fitting shoe and practicing on a sprung floor, never completely solid or concrete floors also helps in preventing injuries (Berardi, 2007; Minden, 2005).

Cross Training

Dance, particularly ballet, is considered a non-endurance or anaerobic exercise. An anaerobic exercise is opposite of endurance in that endurance is a constant exertion of exercise of the body. Common endurance building exercises include running, swimming or cycling (DiNubile, n.d.; Minden, 2005). Ballet focuses on strength and flexibility with spurts of endurance when a dancer does turns, jumps, etc. (Cleveland Clinic, 2006). Because it exerts little endurance, some experts suggest dancers cross train in another exercise or sport to promote cardiovascular health (DiNubile, n.d.; Minden, 2005). Those that do not encourage are usually ones who fear the dancer may obtain an injury and prematurely end their dancing career (Cleveland Clinic, 2006; Kinetz, 2005).

 

Dancers who choose to cross train usually choose exercises that are anaerobic such as yoga, Pilates or other dances. Benefits of these other exercises can help in developing a dancerís flexibility and balance, which can carry over to ballet (Ballet and Cross Training: Cross Training for Dancers, 2008; Minden, 2005; Vogel, 2004). Disadvantages of exercising in the same anaerobic styles are not promoting endurance training or cardiovascular exercises, which further assists in having a healthy heart (Ballet and Cross Training: Cross Training for Dancers, 2008; Minden, 2005).

Dancers who are encouraged to cross train in high endurance exercises are discouraged from doing exercises that could cause injuries (Ballet and Cross Training: Cross Training for Dancers, 2008; Hamilton, 2005; Minden, 2005). Exercises such as this include karate and other active sports. Some exercises that could also cause injury are running and jogging. This is because the constant pounding movements could cause injuries in either one or both of the feet or knees. It is also more likely to cause injuries in dancers because of the turned-out legs and feet, which causes more strain on the Achilles tendon than an average person who is not involved in dance (Hamilton, 2005). Keeping the feet and knees from becoming injured or overworked is important for the ballet dancer because of the already high amount of movements on these body parts in dance training (Hamilton, 2005; Minden, 2005).

High endurance exercises that dancers can participate in, but are safer in preventing injuries include swimming, cycling, or aerobics classes (Ballet and Cross Training: Cross Training for Dancers, 2008; Hamilton, 2005; Vogel, 2004).

Overall, cross training can benefit the dancer if the right exercise or sport is chosen (Hamilton, 2005). Choosing a safe exercise that helps improve cardiovascular health, flexibility, strength and balance will add variety to a dancerís routine and help improve their dance skills (Minden, 2005). However, it is important to note that for a ballet dancer, ballet should always be the main focus of training and exercise (Ballet and Cross Training: Cross Training for Dancers, 2008; Vogel, 2004).

 

 
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