Pearls from Pro Arte: Conditioning Specialist, Susie Higgins, on the common “threads” of dance injuries

Pilates Pearl picThe Professional Program students at Pro Arte Centre are well and truly spoiled with their weekly Pilates and Yoga training in amongst their daily dance specific and foot conditioning. Aside from classical and modified mat work we teach Pilates using small equipment with balls of various sizes, foam rollers, fit rings, rotary discs and resistance bands. We are also fortunate enough to offer the oh so important resistance work using reformers, towers, chair, ladder barrel and small barrel in our spacious and well equipped studio.

With their vigorous training and performance schedule the demands on these talented
growing bodies are high which is the reason we are actively seeking out a preventative
program which will address the common weaknesses , asymmetries and overload injuries we often observe in these aspiring dancers. At Pro Arte,  Pilates is also used as part of the dance screening students received each year, to be on top of growth related weaknesses and any injuries.

The common threads we see with a lot of  injuries can usually be identified from the following and can be easily addressed with holistic ballet training and conditioning classes:
● Standing with the pelvis tilted too far forward and the lower back too arched (used by students who turn their feet out too much and don’t use turnout correctly from the hip and due to the next point…)
● Weak abdominals (hard to believe but sadly true!)
● Tight as well as weak muscles in the spine, pelvis and hips leading to
(amongst lots of other conditions) snapping hips, IT Band Syndrome, Patellar
tendinitis
● Incorrect use of turnout and weak abdominals  – snapping hips, psoas tendinitis
● Weak foot and ankle – leading to rolling over on ankles whether on pointe or
landing from a jump or overuse injuries such as stress fractures in the foot ,
sesamoiditis.
● Poor static as well as dynamic alignment of hips, knees and feet especially in
weight-bearing which affects centre work, turns and jumps.
● Breathholding – often due to a rounded upper back posture (smart phone
generation!), leading to a stiff ribcage and upper back – this often makes the
dancer look stiff and awkward in their movements especially their port de bras, épaulement and facial expressions.

 

Pre-Professional Physio-Dance Conditioning Specialists

Image 9

All Pro Arte Pre-Professional students in Pre-Intermediate/Intermediate/Advanced Programs are having dance physio screenings and conditioning analysis with Physiotherapist Erika Mayall (M.P.T, HBSc (kin) and Susie Higgins (Pilates instructor who is a non-practising physiotherapist from the UK) who are working in close tandem with our teachers.

Young dancers are very susceptible to injury during the growth spurt years and, as related by a orthopaedic surgeon for the Royal Ballet at the Birmingham International Association for Dance and Science conference – “all injuries can ultimately be traced to poor technique or wrong bio-mechanics.” Correct muscle recruitment patterns, muscle balance, working within an individual’s genetic range must all be carefully guided by the dance teacher and monitored by a dance physiotherapist. The dance conditioning specialist can assist with corrective and strengthening exercises and be an additional “eye” to recognise misalignment and poor recruitment patterns.

Students need to be encouraged how to “think” and not just “do” when they dance! Short cuts lead to short careers and injuries that will hamper your young dancer into their adult years.